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From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, FirstNet – the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community – has been helping those on the front line effectively coordinate and communicate. FirstNet was born out of 9/11, when it became clear that different response groups, such as firefighters, police, and EMS, needed to be able to talk across their organizations. First response needs to be a unified response. And FirstNet has proved itself through natural disasters including fires, earthquakes and storms. Now, it’s being used nationwide to respond to the biggest crisis any of us have ever seen. FirstNet is supporting the frontline heroes working tirelessly to keep the country safe and get it back on its feet. That’s why we tasked ourselves with caring for them. Here’s just a few ways in which we’re helping our country’s first responders, both in the field and at home.

The FirstNet Mission: Supporting Public Safety’s Emergency Response

As public safety’s partner, we have a responsibility unlike any other wireless carrier during the coronavirus pandemic – it’s why we were there in January supporting the first quarantine sites and why we’re here today continuing to provide support every step of the way. Delivering on the vision of Congress and the first responder community, FirstNet stands above commercial offerings. Law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies rely on this dedicated platform and the entire FirstNet ecosystem to help them complete their critical missions. We’ve deployed equipment, optimized the network and distributed FirstNet Ready™ devices to support public safety at essential locations nationwide – including quarantine zones, airports, hospitals, testing centers and state and federal emergency operations centers (EOC). Every community has different needs based on the severity of their outbreak, ranging from temporary treatment centers supporting crowded hospitals to drive-thru testing facilities helping identify infection hotspots before they expand. FirstNet is designed to flex and adapt with changing situations.

Here are just a few examples of how we’re helping America’s first responders – supporting both existing and new FirstNet subscribers – in the fight against COVID-19:

  • Hard-Hit Cities: In New York City, we stepped in to help ensure EMS and other first responders have the interoperable connectivity they need. We equipped hundreds of ambulances with FirstNet Ready™ ultra-rugged Sonim XP8s and AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk (ePTT). We also deployed FirstNet portable cell sites and new, temporary in-building solutions at their base location to increase network capacity for first responders and emergency staff.
  • Naval Hospital Ships: We worked to ensure connectivity for the USNS Comfort in New York and the USNS Mercy in Los Angeles. These naval medical treatment facilities are being used to alleviate the overcrowding in local hospitals.
  • Major Medical Centers: In northern California, a FirstNet portable cell site was deployed to a medical facility to provide additional capacity and keep emergency personnel connected. At no additional charge, public safety agencies on FirstNet can request this temporary equipment for added emergency support.
  • Testing Facilities: Another FirstNet portable cell site was deployed to support a drive-thru testing facility in the northeast. The site allowed medical professionals and first responders to communicate effectively without having to worry about bandwidth once people arrived for testing.
  • State, Tribal and Federal EOCs: In Oregon, after recognizing a critical public safety facility needed additional coverage and capacity, we installed a permanent network enhancement. FirstNet liaisons at AT&T are also embedded with EOCs across the country to strengthen public safety’s command and control of their network. In addition, we deployed a FirstNet portable cell site, followed by the installation of an in-building network enhancement, to provide connectivity for a tribal EOC and COVID-19 testing site on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Keller, WA. 
  • Logistics Managements: We've quickly expanded network bandwidth to support a 5x increase in remote Virtual Private Networking (VPN) capabilities among the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as they manage logistics for the national COVID-19 response. USACE is also expanding its usage of FirstNet daily as its COVID-19 workload grows.

FirstNet is built for public safety, for every first responder in the country – career or volunteer; federal, state, local or tribal; urban, suburban or rural. These first responders get a dedicated, prioritized network connection when needed, so that they can reliably communicate even when business and consumer traffic is surging. This is a vital difference between FirstNet and commercial networks.

Expanding FirstNet for Public Safety

We’re determined to deliver the best tools and solutions for public safety’s life-saving missions. That’s why we are continuously working to evolve FirstNet to meet first responders’ technical needs and reducing their costs wherever possible:

  • NEW! Starting May 1 and for a limited time, we’re offering individual first responders who sign-on to FirstNet and pay for their own service 50% off monthly rate plan charges for 6 months when you activate a new FirstNet Mobile—Responder Unlimited line of service and purchase a new FirstNet Ready™ device on a qualified installment agreement. 1
  • Plus, we’re giving individual first responders who sign-on to FirstNet and pay for their own service a $200 activation credit when activating a new FirstNet Ready smartphone on a new FirstNet First Mobile-Responder plan.2
  • We expanded the FirstNet program to give first responder agencies free smartphones for life with each eligible FirstNet Mobile – Unlimited plan.3 This means law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies will have the latest tools to complete their lifesaving missions.
  • We’re also growing the FirstNet app ecosystem to support our nation’s response to COVID-19. With more than 100 highly secure apps tested for public safety, the FirstNet App Catalog can help cost-effectively enhance their situational awareness and other capabilities.
  • Through FirstNet Central, the primary service portal for agencies using FirstNet, public safety administrators now have easy access to the interactive coronavirus disease (COVID-19) dashboard created by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
  • We launched FirstNet Push-to-Talk (PTT), the first-ever nationwide mission-critical standards-based push-to-talk solution in the U.S. FirstNet PTT will also deliver new features that allow first responders to better react to changing events.

These are just a few of the ways we’ve made FirstNet nimble, adaptable and scalable for even situations as severe as COVID-19.

Support for Public Safety’s Extended Community

FirstNet – built in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – is first and foremost for our country’s first responders. But we also recognize the importance of the extended public safety community. And in the case of COVID-19, doctors and nurses around the country have stepped up in the face of an immense challenge. They’re caring for our friends and families under dire conditions, in many cases at great personal risk – and they keep showing up for all of us.

So that’s why we went a step further to support state-licensed nurses and physicians (M.D. and D.O.) nationwide with three months of free wireless service on a FirstNet Mobile—Responder plan for a smartphone or tablet.And like our first responder subscribers, the extended public safety community can also get a $200 activation credit when activating a new FirstNet Ready smartphone on a new FirstNet Mobile-Responder plan.2

We also collaborated with Centene to expedite the FirstNet network rollout. This will streamline access to affordable, high-speed wireless broadband services for primary care providers in rural and underserved communities and enable rural practices to use telehealth techniques to better serve their patients. The collaboration will kick off with pilots in four states: Arkansas, Kansas, Georgia and Mississippi.

The sacrifices and hardships that doctors and nurses are working under right now are as inspiring as they are daunting. Our country owes them all a debt of gratitude. It’s also clear now more than ever before how critical it is they have the tools and infrastructure they need to do their jobs effectively.

Enhanced Support at Home

FirstNet is dedicated to America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. But our commitment doesn’t stop at building public safety’s network.

To reaffirm our gratitude to those on the front lines fighting COVID-19, we teamed up with iHeartMedia to produce “iHeartRadio’s First Responder Fridays with FirstNet, Built with AT&T.” This four-week tribute series, hosted by Ryan Seacrest, is live-streamed on iHeartRadio’s YouTube channel and broadcasted across more than 90 iHeartRadio stations nationwide and celebrates the men and women, as well as their families, on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic for the commitment they’ve made to all of us.

AT&T also committed $5.5 million to provide nourishing meals for first responders, medical personnel and others in need impacted by COVID-19. This includes a $1.5 million contribution to World Central Kitchen, which uses the power of food to heal and strengthen communities in times of crisis and beyond. In addition to World Central Kitchen, we’re supporting Feeding America, the Salvation Army and Team Rubicon.  We’ll also be collaborating with a host of additional local organizations in communities most impacted by the pandemic. 

Supporting first responders – both on the frontlines and at home – is our mission. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, we are dedicated to those who are dedicated to protecting our families and communities. And for those that keep showing up in our greatest time of need, willing to put it all on the line to keep us safe, you have all our thanks – although “thank you” will never be enough.

1Limited time only. Available only to eligible subscriber paid users. Req’s new line and min. $_4__ on installment agmt. w/ elig. wireless svc who activate a new FirstNet Mobile Responder—Unlimited line of service (min $39.99/mo on smartphone, $40/mo on tablet, $25 on wearable) and purchase a new FirstNet Ready™ device on a qualified installment agreement. 6 months of credits on a single line of service ($22.50/mo (smartphones), $20/mo (tablets), and $12.50/mo (wearables)) start w/in start w/in 3 bills. Well qualified customers only. If svc cancelled, credits stop & device balance due. New subscribers must qualify for FirstNet service and complete verification process within 30 days. Device must use a FirstNet SIM. Add’l fees, taxes, charges & other restr’s apply. See firstnet.com/currentoffers for complete details.

2Limited time offer. Requires purchase on 0% APR AT&T Installment (30-month at maximum $66 per month) agreement. Credits start within three billing cycles. Available only to eligible first responders who activate a new smartphone line of service as a Subscriber Paid User on FirstNet Mobile- Responder plan with eligible voice & data service. If service is cancelled, device balance due (up to $1979.99). Tax on full retail price due at sale. Additional fees & restrictions apply. See firstnet.com/currentoffers for verification and other details.

3Available only to FirstNet first responder public safety entities for Primary Agency Paid User lines of service.  Requires a new FirstNet Mobile - Unlimited for Smartphone line or eligible upgrade on a two-year service agreement or AT&T installment 30-month agreement. For two-year agreement, upgrade your smartphone with a new eligible smartphone every two years at no additional cost for as long as your service plan is in effect and in good standing. Pay $.99 for eligible smartphone at purchase, credited back within three billing cycles.  Upgrade requires new two-year agreement. For AT&T Installment 30-month agreement, upgrade your smartphone with a new eligible smartphone every time you satisfy your current AT&T Installment agreement and sign a new one for no additional cost for as long as your service plan is in effect and in good standing. For both plans, tax on full discount price (two-year agreement) or full retail price (AT&T Installment agreement) due at sale. Activation and other fees, taxes, charges and restrictions apply. See firstnet.com/currentoffers for offer details.

4Ltd. time offer.  Credits equal to 3 months of recurring service charges (incl taxes & fees) on a FirstNet Mobile--Responder plan for smartphone or tablet will start within 3 bills. Available only to eligible physicians and nurses who have, or qualify and subscribe to a new, FirstNet Mobile--Responder plan. For current subscribers, credits will automatically be applied to an existing line of service. New subscribers may migrate an AT&T line of service or activate a new FirstNet Mobile—Responder line of service. New subscribers must qualify for FirstNet service and complete verification process within 30 days. Customer must provide or purchase their own device and use a FirstNet SIM. See firstnet.com/currentoffers for complete details.