AT&T’s Senior Vice President (SVP) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO), John Stephens, has hinted that in some respects FirstNet contradicts the ethos behind Net Neutrality. The comments were said to have been made during an investor event this week, and reported on by FierceWireless. The sum of the comments revolve around the principle of FirstNet to prioritize a network for the emergency services, such as the police and firefighters.
Which is where the issue arises as Net Neutrality is fundamentally designed to offset against circumstances where prioritization may happen, and in any capacity. Stephens reportedly went on to note that while it seems unlikely anyone would argue with a need to prioritize FirstNet users, it still represents “the uniquenesses of some of the other arguments that we have to deal with.” Of course, whether such 'arguments' remain relevant is less clear, as recent reports have suggested that the change in administration in the US is expected to lead to a change in Net Neutrality regulations in general. While those changes still remain speculative for now, the comments made by Stephens highlight one area where the current regulations may need to be adapted to account for unique cases like this. With Stephens reportedly explaining that the situation has arose due to unique use-cases having not been taken into consideration when Net Neutrality regulations were first put together.
As for FirstNet, this is a network which will look to ensure that emergency services are able to stay connected when needed. This network will do that by combining additional spectrum with AT&T’s 4G LTE network so that whenever and wherever first responders find themselves, they will retain the ability to connect to a network, and just as importantly, retain the ability to communicate with other emergency services and organizations. The reason AT&T is involved is due to the carrier being awarded the right to build out the network in the first place. Since AT&T was awarded the contract back in March of this year, the carrier has made a number of announcements relating to the network. Including announcing various partnerships with companies like Motorola Solutions, to bring devices (and software) that are better-suited to the needs of first responders, and the FirstNet network in general.