FirstNet Buildout Continues in Vermont
FirstNet is a federal program managed by the FirstNet Authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Following a competitive RFP in 2017, AT&T was awarded the contract to build, operate and maintain the network. In Vermont, AT&T continues work on new site builds. AT&T has until 2022 to fulfill its commitment to build 36 new tower sites in Vermont. Six of the new tower sites are in Essex County and will be built via a partnership with Great North Woods Wireless. Construction of the Essex County sites will begin this year, with plans for the sites to be on air by the end of 2020 or sooner.
As last reported in the October newsletter, more than half of the new tower sites are being built at locations where there currently is no cell tower. AT&T has contacted landowners at all of the new tower sites and continues work on the engineering process. Currently, AT&T forecasts that seven new FirstNet sites will be activated in 2019. Additionally, AT&T continues to develop its existing commercial network. They forecast that three new commercial sites will be on-air by the end of this year. All of these sites will have FirstNet capabilities.
An important part of AT&Ts FirstNet buildout plan is upgrading existing towers with Band 14 throughout the country. In Vermont, there are now 14 towns with Band 14 equipment installed. FirstNet subscribers have priority and preemption on all bands of the network. Adding Band 14 to existing towers should increase capacity and coverage for first responders and ensure they will always have access to the network, regardless of the volume of users.
AT&T reports that 7,000 agencies nationwide have subscribed to FirstNet, with 600,000 activated lines. In interviews with AT&T executives, the subscriber trend is described as being led by existing customers who have shifted to a FirstNet plan. In Vermont, there is a similar trend as existing AT&T public safety customers subscribe to take advantage of competitive prices and a growing product line. As previously reported to the Department of Public Safety by AT&T, there were almost 2,000 FirstNet subscriber lines that had been activated in Vermont.
DPS provides administrative support for the Public Safety Broadband Network Commission. If you have questions about FirstNet or need assistance, please contact us via email at DPS.PSBC@Vermont.gov or by calling (802) 241-5535.