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Blog // Connect Michigan

Helping Public Safety “Catch Up” With Consumers

By Jessica Denson

As technology evolved and consumers began to buy-in to the Internet and smart phones, first responders suddenly moved from the forefront of communication technology to the back of the line.

“When I started in the fire service, we had landline phones and could talk on the radio. The general public did not,” said FirstNet Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson. “Then, we evolved to a place where the general public has superior technology to police, firefighters, and paramedics.”

It was something Johnson witnessed firsthand every day when he got home.

“You know, my 14-year-old daughter had more capability than I did on the street,” he said. “I could push to talk and ‘let up’ to listen.”

Johnson points out that we use phones to navigate, communicate, and even keep track of people. But, the nation’s first responders were finding they couldn’t communicate effectively with each other.

“If you put that kind of context in your mind and say, ‘Okay, what if we bring that functionality that’s mission critical and we bring it to public safety.’ Now, you really start to imagine the power of FirstNet.”

That led to FirstNet, an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce with a mission to develop, build, and operate a nationwide, broadband network for first responders.

“This is built with you [the public and first responders] in mind, it’s built specifically for you—those are the things that will change your world,” Johnson said.

Watch the video below to see the Vice Chairman’s full interview:



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