Alaska Puts New FirstNet System to the Test

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Last November in Alaska, during a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, police maintained cell phone and internet service thanks to FirstNet, according to the Missoulian. At the time, some officers were testing the network on their personal devices, and it allowed them to set up an emergency operations center and coordinate responses to handle the natural disaster.

“It was just random chance that we had started sort of testing this a little bit right before the earthquake happened,” said Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll. 

“I felt a lot more confident rolling it out to the whole agency after we had that kind of trial by fire with the earthquake with just a few phones. I was like, ‘This actually works.’”

In January 2019, Anchorage police officially opted into the network, run by AT&T and FirstNet, according to the Missoulian. Now, police are equipped with FirstNet-linked cell phones and laptops with mobile hotspots. To date, more than 7,250 departments nationwide have joined FirstNet, according to AT&T.  

“I would say it’s the most important network in our country because it’s serving our first responders who are taking care of us every day,” said AT&T SVP FirstNet Chris Sambar.

Sabar added that more than half of the system has been completed. In Alaska, the five-year-goal for the network includes covering over 90 percent of the population, which still covers less than half of the state’s tribal lands, according to FirstNet. While FirstNet is being built out, emergency personnel will rely on Alaska’s current mobile radio network. “I really believe in FirstNet,” said John Rockwell, a state official who worked on the plan. “It’s just not there yet.”

June 14, 2019        

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