LACONIA — New Hampshire is working to provide a dedicated wireless broadband network to the state’s public safety community.
John Stevens, statewide interoperability coordinator, told Gov. Chris Sununu and the Executive Council on Wednesday that New Hampshire was the first state in the nation to select an alternate vendor for the First Responders Network Authority initiative or FirstNet.
In the wake of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and most recently the Boston Marathon bombings, Stevens said first responders became painfully aware of their inability to communicate as capacity of the system was exceeded.
FirstNet was set up to build a new network designed to be reliable and provide emergency responders with real-time data — such as a SWAT team being able to receive the floor plan of a building or firefighters the schematics of a burning building, or paramedics to transmit patient information to the emergency room.
In June, FirstNet awarded its core contract to AT&T. This fall the state will decide whether to opt in, or opt out with FirstNet.
If the decision is made to opt out, the state will take on the responsibility of developing its own system.
A potential drawback of an opt-in decision with FirstNet is that just five percent of the state’s emergency responders currently use AT&T as their broadband provider and would need to switch carriers.
“I’m very encouraged in regards to the future,” Stevens told the Executive Council at its breakfast meeting at the N.H. Marine Patrol headquarters on Dock Road in Gilford. He said an ancillary benefit to the initiative is that it will expand broadband access in New Hampshire, which in turn is an economic driver.
“There is no doubt that we are so far ahead of other states and are leading the nation. Our decisions will be impactful,” he said.