FBI selects FirstNet for five-year contract worth $92 million, AT&T says
All personnel within the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) will be transitioned to FirstNet, built by AT&T, service in 2021 as part of a five-year contract that replaces FBI use of Verizon wireless offerings and can be leveraged by other agencies withing the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), an AT&T official said today.
Stacy Schwartz, vice president of AT&T’s FirstNet program, said that the FBI has been utilizing FirstNet—the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) being built by AT&T—previously, but the new contract expands the relationship to all FBI personnel.
“The FBI has decided to move all of their service to FirstNet, built by AT&T, and we’re delighted about that,” Schwartz said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “While we do have some of their service today on FirstNet, this [new contract] would be moving the remainder of their enterprise over from Verizon service to AT&T’s FirstNet.
“The FBI made this award, and we are just in the midst of working through our planning to transition their service over, starting at the beginning of the year … Users will start moving over beginning in January, and we’ll do that for several months, until we move all of the users over onto FirstNet.”
Valued at about $92 million, the FBI contract is “the largest commitment to FirstNet by a law-enforcement or public-safety agency,” according to an AT&T press release.
Schwartz said the five-year deal is the result of an FBI procurement process, but the terms of the agreement also apply to other DOJ agencies.
“It is available to all of DOJ, whether it’s the U.S. Marshals, U.S. Attorneys, [the Federal] Bureau of Prisons—all of DOJ can buy off of this contract,” Schwartz said, noting that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are among the DOJ agencies already using FirstNet.
“This contract is a new contract and gives these agencies the ability to expand their relationship with FirstNet, so we’re thrilled.”
Other federal agencies within the DOJ that have been using FirstNet include the Antitrust Division, U.S. Attorneys and the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, according to the AT&T press release. Despite these federal agreements and contracts with federal military agencies, most FirstNet users still come from state and local public-safety entities, in terms of both “primary” and “extended primary” first responders, according to Schwartz.
“We are not at the point where there are more federal [FirstNet users than state and local users],” she said. “If you think about the universe and what’s happened just in 2020 with the pandemic. The community of users extending beyond the first responders has grown so much this year, with the advent of healthcare really taking advantage of FirstNet.
“I think we’ve got a very healthy mix of users—nearly what I believe was envisioned to really create that community of interest. Whether it’s a pre-eminent law-enforcement agency like the FBI, a healthcare organization, state police, county police or local fire, we are really getting a healthy mix of that community on this platform to make it interoperable and collaborative to really—I think—realize the vision of what FirstNet was intended to do.”
FirstNet Authority CEO Ed Parkinson echoed this sentiment.
“FirstNet was built with and for all of public safety—including our Federal first responders,” Parkinson said in a prepared statement. “We are pleased to see the DOJ expand its use of the network platform to connect more agencies within the law enforcement community. The FirstNet Authority looks forward to continuing to work with the Department to advance and enhance FirstNet for federal law enforcement.”
Schwartz said that FirstNet’s diverse user base makes the public-safety broadband system a key component for interoperability planning at all levels of the response community.
“One thing that we’re super excited about is the interoperability capability,” Schwartz said. “We will definitely be introducing—as we already have in some of these agencies—the use of push to talk, to make that communication capability an easier and consistent experience, making sure that, whether it’s between and among agencies within DOJ or whether within tactical forces within the U.S.
“We’re super excited to make that FirstNet linkage across the agencies and create interoperability … FirstNet is becoming—if it hasn’t already, in some circumstances—that common platform, so agencies can work together, collaborate and support their missions.”