LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas will participate in a national emergency communication system, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday.
In a news release issued by his office, Hutchinson said Arkansas will opt into a plan by First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, and AT&T to deliver a wireless broadband network to the state’s public safety community.
With the announcement, Arkansas joins Virginia and Wyoming as the first states to declare their intention to participate in the program.
“After an in-depth review of the FirstNet and AT&T plan by the appropriate state agencies and stakeholders, I have decided to approve their recommendation to opt in to the program,” Hutchinson said.
“As a former undersecretary of Homeland Security after 9/11, I understand the necessity of a reliable stand-alone emergency communications system. FirstNet has received wide support among our community of first responders because it will enable us to respond more quickly during crises when seconds can mean the difference between life and death,” he said.
The plan calls for FirstNet and AT&T to build, operate and maintain a secure wireless broadband communications network for Arkansas’ public safety community at no cost to the state for the next 25 years.
The FirstNet network will create a system of modernized devices, apps and tools for first responders, transforming the way Arkansas’ fire, police, emergency medical services and other public safety personnel communicate and share information, according to the release.
“Arkansas has been a tremendous partner to work with to plan and design this network,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in the release. “With today’s decision, Gov. Hutchinson realizes public safety’s efforts and sets this life-saving network into motion.”
Ed Drilling, president of AT&T Arkansas, said, “It is our honor to provide advanced communications capabilities to ensure Arkansas’ first responder community has a network they can rely upon when needed most. AT&T has a long history with the public safety community, and together we know we will create a first-of-its-kind network that will help first responders operate faster, safer and more effectively when lives are on the line.”