State lawmakers hear pros and cons of "FirstNet"

Written by Radio Pennsylvania | Oct 20, 2017 9:27 AM
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(Harrisburg) -- A modern communications plan for first responders and 9-1-1 systems is being considered by Pennsylvania as part of a national implementation.

It was the subject of a lengthy hearing this week in Harrisburg.

"FirstNet" was authorized by Congress to improve aging emergency radio and call infrastructures by adding broadband and expanded data capabilities.

AT&T is contracted to deliver FirstNet unless states individually opt out. 

AT&T's Jim Bugel was among those testifying before a joint Senate & House committee hearing at the capitol.

"It is a 25-year binding contract with obligations to deliver on public safety's needs," he said.

But Declan Ganley, with AT&T rival company Rivada Networks, urged lawmakers to opt out of the AT&T FirstNet plan, saying commercial networks like AT&T are not reliable for emergency communications.

"Time after time, disaster after disaster they fail.  Look at Puerto Rico.  Look at Texas.  Look at Florida.  Look at California.  They're not designed for the stresses of public safety or for the performance of public safety," Ganley argued.

The state has until December to make the decision to opt-out.

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