On April 26, FirstNet and the AT&T Policy Forum hosted an event titled "Looking Back – The Ultimate Stress Test for FirstNet." The event included a conversation with Congressman Bob Latta and a panel event discussing public safety communications and FirstNet's operations over the past year. The discussion highlighted the importance of FirstNet's "priority and preemption" feature that ensures public safety users have solid connections to communicate in emergencies or for other public safety purposes.
Paragraph 24 of the FCC's October 2020 Restoring Internet Freedom Remand Order spotlighted FirstNet and its dedicated public safety service:
The record reflects that many public safety entities have access to and make use of dedicated public safety-specific and/or prioritized, specialized enterprise-level broadband services for data communications between public safety officials Perhaps the most important example of a dedicated network is the Congressionally-created First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). In 2012, Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which in part directed "the establishment of a nationwide, interoperable public safety network" to "ensure the deployment and operation of a nationwide, broadband network for public safety communications" —a resilient network capable of supporting both data and voice communications. The law granted 20 megahertz of spectrum to be used for the network and allocated $7 billion of funding. FirstNet offers service priority and preemption, which allow first responders to communicate over an "always-on" network… The record reflects that "[m]ore and more, public safety is relying on the FirstNet core and public safety’s own dedicated network for critical public safety communications – one that offers faster performance than commercial networks."
In the next paragraph, the FCC's order offered additional insights into the public safety communications and dedicated or prioritized broadband Internet services:
"[O]ther service providers have recently begun offering or enhanced their public safety services to compete with FirstNet." For example, Verizon offers services designed for first responders and public safety entities through its public safety private core that include the ability to prioritize public safety communications to ensure that they stay connected during emergencies. Such services also provide an extra layer of assurance that public safety communications will continue to operate during peak times. In addition, public safety users "have access to several … enhanced services" from Verizon, including Mobile Broadband Priority Service and data preemption. These services "provide public safety users priority service for data transmissions" by giving users priority over commercial users during periods of heavy network congestion and "reallocat[ing] network resources from commercial data/Internet users to first responders" if networks reach full capacity.
The view expressed by the FCC's order are consistent with comments filed in the proceeding by Free State Foundation President Randolph May and I. As FSF's comments stated: "Paid prioritization arrangements offer a valuable option for government agencies responsible for public safety to use communications services that feature higher quality and improved reliability compared to traditional best-efforts broadband networks."