Illinois Signs Up For FirstNet, Approves Buildout Plan

Carrier-powered first responder networking system FirstNet has officially signed up the state of Illinois, and governor Bruce Rauner has approved a plan to build out the specialized network equipment and infrastructure that will power the state's FirstNet deployment. AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority have jointly formulated a plan for statewide deployment that will surpass the availability and capacity of commercial networks in rural areas of the state, and provide affordable and powerful coverage everywhere else. Though the way FirstNet is set up allows first responders to dip into carriers' commercial networks as needed to power their wireless traffic needs in a prioritized fashion, the idea is to provide a robust enough buildout for FirstNet alone that they won't have to do that very often, if at all.

The plan with FirstNet in Illinois is not simply to provide a specialized network for first responders. Since the state's particular FirstNet deployment will require network buildout, the plan will create jobs and spur investment in networking, an area that's lacking in some areas of the state. These entry-level jobs will stimulate the local economy and help create experienced professionals who can cater to the state's growing needs in that market. Essentially, though the initial fruits of these efforts will serve the sole purpose of creating a network to cater to first responders, the trickle-down effects should help to bolster the state's economy and network infrastructure in the long run.

The FirstNet initiative is running out of time for its first wave of signups, with a number of states still undecided. The deadline for signups, for the time being, is December 28. At this point, buildouts will begin as needed, and states will no longer be able to sign up. AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority have not announced a second round of signups and one may not happen in the near future. New Hampshire has been the first state to opt out voluntarily, though with just a few days left in the signup period, many stand to simply let the clock run out. The problem with that is the fact that states are required to either sign up for FirstNet or come up with a roughly equivalent and fully compatible alternative by that date.

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