FirstNet: Bringing Illinois Public Safety Dedicated Mission Critical Wireless Broadband Data

Imagine a public safety first responder able to communicate on a dedicated cellular-type nationwide network; accessing databases from the field, transferring data and images on demand without delay. The establishment of a national communication network for first responders was one of the final outstanding recommendations from the 9/11 Commission to help increase national security. It is anticipated that the broadband network will be built with standards-based 4G/LTE broadband technology, allowing for much faster data transmissions than legacy networks. It will enable a new host of next generation applications for public safety, such as high-definition streaming video & pictures, database queries, download building plans, and much more. FirstNet can make this a reality. Click below for more information about Firstnet!

Initially FirstNet will be used to send data, video, images and text and make cellular-quality voice calls. Users will get fast access to information they need to meet their mission. Unlike commercial wireless networks, FirstNet will allow for priority access among public safety users. FirstNet will also give incident commanders and local officials control over the network so, for example, they can assign users and talk groups and determine who can access applications.

FirstNet will inspire new ways of performing public safety functions that are more effective and efficient. In the future, public safety will have purpose-built applications and a new ecosystem that will provide agencies with incredible opportunities to improve service to their communities.

FirstNet is responsible for the design, building and ongoing operation of the network.  As per the law, however, FirstNet must consult with state, local and regional, jurisdictions regarding a range of activities, including construction or access to the network, assignment of priority to local users and training. The more knowledgeable we become of our own needs, the better we can guide FirstNet as it designs the network. Collecting critical information to help profile usage will ensure robust design while incorporating the needs of state and local emergency responders, such as: Incident location from CAD data, numbers of personnel & vehicles, and how data is used today in various applications.

This process will begin with planning, education and outreach. Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is designated by the Governor and positioned to coordinate this activity with public safety/service emergency responders. We are calling the Illinois efforts “Illinois FirstNet”. A multifaceted campaign has been developed and has begun. The Illinois FirstNet team has created a project plan, website, outreach program, gathered a community of 120 public safety stakeholders, as well as defined a clear set of goals to accomplish. The stakeholder group meets every month to discuss the progress, challenges, and next steps.

The Illinois FirstNet project team has completed outreach planning sessions in 80 counties as well as presented at the various state conferences over the past 18 months reaching over 3,000 emergency responders. The culmination of all our efforts is to make a recommendation to the Governor whether to opt-in and let FirstNet build a network in Illinois or opt-out and build our own wireless broadband network. In the meantime the Illinois FirstNet team will continue to perform outreach, engage with anyone interested in learning more about FirstNet, stay connected with the national efforts, and most importantly act as advocates so the network design matches the public safety need.

Please keep in decisions have been made. No recommendations have been written. Today this FirstNet network only exists in concept; Illinois has a blank canvas…now it is our opportunity to provide critical input from our public safety practitioners. If you have any questions about FirstNet and what is happening in Illinois please send an email to or go to our website