responders (FirstNet)

'Ruthless preemption' now live for FirstNet opt-in states

During an emergency, people pick up their phones and start making calls. The resulting congestion has been problematic for first responders trying to use commercial cellular networks to respond to these same emergencies. On Dec. 12, FirstNet and AT&T announced that the wireless broadband public safety network's "ruthless preemption” feature has launched and is now available to any state that has subscribed to the network.

Ruthless preemption means non-emergency communications will be “shifted to another line” to make room for voice and data traffic from police, firefighters and other emergency personnel.

Chris Sambar, the senior vice president of AT&T FirstNet, said first responders have been asking for preemption.

“During the collaborative conversations that shaped our FirstNet plan, preemption continually topped the list of mission-critical tools first responders wanted to see first on the network,” Sambar said.

When Virginia's Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran testified before Congress last month about the state’s decisions to join FirstNet, he told legislators access to this kind of feature was a determining factor.

“The decision to opt-in was based on the desire to ensure as quickly as possible that public safety is able to leverage the benefits of priority and preemption service,” Moran testified.

FirstNet said in its statement announcing the preemption service that any state that opts-out of the FirstNet plan  “will not be able to offer its first responders access to a similar capability until its alternative plan is approved and Band 14 is deployed, which will likely take years.”

Verizon, however, plans to offer a preemption feature on its own network for first responders that it announced in August. The company's plan targets individual public safety agencies and doesn’t rely on a state’s FirstNet decision, according to reporting by FCW, GCN's sibling site.

A Verizon spokesperson told FCW in August that preemption would be available by the end of 2017, with the dedicated network core expected by 2018. Verizon still intends to meet that deadline, a company spokesman told Urgent Communications.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.

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