Iowa, FirstNet to provide connectivity to the 9-1-1 centers

The FirstNet public safety mobile broadband network will provide backup connectivity to Iowa 9-1-1 centers through an arrangement with Iowa Communications Network (ICN), a statewide fiber network. ICN provides connectivity to educational, healthcare and government facilities in the state, including providing primary connectivity to the 9-1-1 centers, also known as public safety answering points (PSAPs).

According to an ICN press release, the deal may serve as a model for similar deals between FirstNet and PSAPs in other states.

The FirstNet network is operated by AT&T, which won a contract to build the network several years ago that included access to dedicated spectrum to support the network. The carrier is allowed to use the network for its own commercial traffic when the network is not needed by the public safety community, but public safety traffic has priority on the network and can preempt other traffic if needed. The unique nature of the network would seem to make it an excellent choice for PSAP backup.

The ICN is a state agency that operates a statewide fiber network that reaches all 99 counties in the state. The deal with FirstNet was made through a partnership between ICN and Iowa Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HSEMD).

FirstNet 9-1-1 Backup

FirstNet backup connectivity is already available to 24 of 113 Iowa PSAPs and more are expected to be added. In the event that primary connectivity to any of those locations becomes unavailable, traffic will shift to the FirstNet network.

This capability may be particularly important, now that the state’s 9-1-1 system has begun sharing call answering equipment as a cost savings measure – an approach that PSAPs in many states are adopting. Iowa PSAPs’ remote equipment is connected to the state’s host equipment through the ICN.

“Adding FirstNet to the shared services environment helps ensure PSAPs continue to receive their calls even if the primary ICN connection goes down,” said Blake DeRouchey, 9-1-1 Program Manager for HSEMD, in a prepared statement. “The system setup provides a second, disparate connection to the 9-1-1 Network. At the end of the day, when someone calls 9-1-1, they expect to talk to a public safety telecommunicator 100% of the time. Our work with FirstNet makes that expectation more of a reality.”

The Iowa 9-1-1 deployment is unique for FirstNet in that it encompasses multiple sites and spans the entire state, the press release notes.

“There are smaller projects that are similar to what ICN has deployed, but overall from an implementation perspective, ICN’s project is the largest of its type and is setting an example for other states,” said Larry Ewert, Principal Architect with the FirstNet Program, in a prepared statement.

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