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What is FirstNet and will it bring more towers to Cook County?

Though it may sound like something out of a Terminator film, FirstNet is indeed a reality in the field of modern communication.

Showcasing this reality, a sanction of the U.S. Department of Commerce gave the go-ahead recently to begin building the first nationwide public safety broadband network.

This follows a deal announced last year, where AT&T won a 25-year, $46 billion contract to build the broadband network, which many say “has been set aside for public safety.” It’s worth pointing out, specifically for the Gunflint Trail area, that when not in use for emergencies, AT&T can use it for commercial business. This, simply put, means people can use the network for their personal cell phones.

The topic of FirstNet and cell phone use up the Gunflint Trail came into a discussion during a meeting about an Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response (ARMER) radio communications network tower that is likely to be built near the shores of Seagull Lake.

The meeting took place Tuesday, April 10 at the Mid-Trail Fire Hall. Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Cook County Sheriff’s Office and others were on hand for the public information session.

And while the meeting was primarily focused on the proposed ARMER tower at Seagull, the topic of FirstNet and cell phone use up the Gunflint Trail did come into play.

In the audio posted below, WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs shares a report with Shane Chatleain from MnDOT’s office of statewide radio communications, who was present during the meeting up the Trail Tuesday night. Chatleain explains what FirstNet is, and what role it could play in Cook County.

In addition, Rowan Watkins, the radio communications analyst for Cook County, explains the difference between ARMER and FirstNet, and if there is a chance that the arrival of FirstNet to the region could mean more towers in Cook County.

Meanwhile, WTIP reported earlier this year that cell phone coverage is likely coming to the Gunflint Trail in the near future. Rena Rogers from the county’s IT Department confirmed April 10 that the interest remains high for cell phone providers having tower space up the Gunflint Trail.

For more information about FirstNet, click here.