FirstNet is a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders being built and deployed through a first of its kind public-private partnership. FirstNet was borne out of the September 11, 2001 tragedy where it became clear that the radio systems police, fire, and paramedics relied on did not easily operate across agencies. First responders also could not rely on land and mobile phone lines as they were overwhelmed by a high volume of calls. The 2004 9/11 commission report cited this lack of connectivity as a fundamental problem for first responders and pushed for solutions to be developed quickly to support everyday public safety activities as well as response to catastrophes.
The development of FirstNet began in 2012 when the First Responder Network Authority was established and a law was put in place that allocated 20 megahertz of spectrum and $7 billion to establish a broadband network dedicated to the nation's first responders. FirstNet was launched in 2018.
Though the word may be overused, state and local governments are indeed facing unprecedented challenges. Forced to move operations online in response to their own stay-at-home orders, state and local agencies have spent the last year retooling how they serve citizens. They have been paying for necessary technology upgrades and other new equipment while revenues from taxes have dropped considerably. Even with these financial challenges, state CIOs are committed to continuing with their innovation and modernization efforts.
A study from the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) showed that priorities for state and local CIOs stayed consistent over the last year, with cybersecurity and enhancing digital citizen service being the top two. Of course, these two areas saw critical investments in 2020 just to keep the business of government running. In 2021, the solutions put in place will be revisited, evaluated for efficiency, and operationalized to support agencies moving forward.