Press Releases

Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher and Congresswoman Val Demings Introduce Legislation to Promote Public Safety and Make First Responder Communication Network Permanent

Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07) and Congresswoman Val Demings (FL-10) introduced H.R. 6768, the FirstNet Reauthorization Act, to promote public safety by ensuring first responders can communicate with each other in times of crisis.  Established in response to the first responder communication problems that occurred during 9/11, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is a public-private partnership to build and operate a nationwide public safety broadband network.  The original legislation that created FirstNet included a sunset provision to terminate the program 15 years after its enactment.  Today, on the 10-year anniversary of its enactment, this bill reauthorizes FirstNet by striking the original sunset provision and making FirstNet permanent. 

“Our first responders rely on FirstNet to communicate with each other when our community needs them the most,” said Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher.  “I am glad to work with Congresswoman Demings to introduce this legislation to make FirstNet permanent and ensure first responders have the communication tools they need to stay safe and support communities in all the ways they can at all times.”

“As a former 27-year law enforcement officer and Chief of Police, Chair of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, and as the mother of a firefighter, it is critical that Congress pass this legislation to enhance first responder communications,” said Congresswoman Val Demings.  “This has been a goal since September 11th, 2001, when I remember serving as Commander of the Orlando Police Officers stationed at Orlando International Airport and struggling to receive comprehensive and timely information.”

“We thank Congresswomen Demings and Fletcher for introducing this timely legislation, which would help ensure that our first responders can stay connected, effective, and safe in the field,” said FirstNet Authority CEO, Edward Parkinson.  “The FirstNet Authority is the only dedicated nationwide broadband network for our nation’s first responders, and serves over 19,000 public safety agencies and organizations with 3 million connections in every U.S. state and territory. The legislation would provide certainty for the FirstNet Authority to continue its focus on improving and innovating the network so that responders have the tools they need to help ensure the safety of the American people. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration on the reauthorization of this critical program that benefits public safety across the country.”  

“Congress outlined a framework for FirstNet to ensure it was designed by first responders for first responders,” said Chris Lombard, Deputy Fire Chief of the Seattle, Washington Fire Department & Chair of the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee.  “This holds true today, as the FirstNet Authority has faithfully carried out its mission. With more than 3 million connections supporting nearly 20,000 public safety agencies using the network today, this legislation will enable the FirstNet Authority to continue to deliver on its promise to public safety. Thank you to Representatives Demings and Fletcher for their leadership in introducing this critical legislation supporting the nationwide public safety broadband network that myself and so many first responders rely on every day.” 

“I commend Rep. Demings and Rep. Fletcher for their leadership in introducing legislation to reauthorize FirstNet,” said Chief Kenneth Stuebing, President and Board Chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.  “FirstNet has been a game changer for public safety communications. Its establishment of a national public safety broadband network has given first responders priority and preemption on their own spectrum and allowed multiple agencies to communicate within and across jurisdictions. Capabilities that were critically needed a decade ago and have revolutionized emergency response nationwide. I strongly recommend that Congress reauthorize this critically important program.” 

As of January 2018, all 50 states and 6 territories have opted into the program. FirstNet has been used in Texas by the Department of Public Safety to coordinate state and local agencies and manage state entry points and traffic flow at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, by law enforcement agencies, and by Harris County to implement COVID-19 testing and vaccination centers.