FirstNet Hits the Slopes in Wisconsin


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Winter in northwestern Wisconsin includes American Birkebeiner, the biggest cross country skiing event in North America. Like a shore town with snow, the season welcomes in a rush of visitors, up to 30,000 of them all in need of connectivity.

Knowing the blitz of winter tourists would be inevitable, Wisconsin signed on with FirstNet in December of 2017, and contracted AT&T to oversee the state’s broadband communications. 

One thing that was specifically requested by the state, according to, was access to AT&T’s Satellite Cellsite on Light Truck (SatCOLT). For a region that typically has modest connectivity needs, a mobile powerhouse that could handle a huge influx of digital material was the perfect solution, according to the account.

During the “Birkie” weekend in February, the Office of Emergency Communications stepped in to help coordinate existing broadband services with the additional resources that were brought in for the event. “It worked wonderfully,” said WISCOM Program Manager Josh Ripp. “We know it helped EMS crews communicate and get appropriate help for those skiers and spectators that needed first aid.”

Ripp declared Birkie 2019 a success and said the SatCOLT would be back next year.  As part of the FirstNet system, there is no charge to deploy the SatCOLT for big events like the Birkebeiner. Ripp expressed his appreciation for the additional assistance noting, “Emergency communication is difficult at best in isolated areas, such as those that exist in the Northwoods. Trying to get radio coverage from EMS staff attending to injured skiers out on the course to the main first aid station can be tricky.”

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March 11, 2019

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