FCC Commissioner and Barrasso Come to Casper to Hear About FirstNet
Speaking in front of the Hall of Justice and inside the Casper Police Department, First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, representatives talked about the benefits their service provides to Casper Police and public safety across the country.
Also in attendance was Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, a representative from Senator Cynthia Lummis, Brendan Carr, a commissioner from the Federal Communication Commission, and several members of the Casper city council.
Carr said that he is visiting places across the country that have trouble connecting to the internet to see what can be done to provide better service, and will be visiting Sioux Falls on Wednesday.
While visiting Wyoming, Carr said that the issue of streamlining the process on federal lands is an important issue to address in Wyoming.
"Federal lands and building internet infrastructure on federal lands is a tremendous challenge. Obviously, the further west you go, the higher and higher percentage of the lands is federal lands, and you can take a plot of land that is privately owned, and right next to it can be a plot of federal land. If you try to build on federal land it can be three times the length of time that it to get all the permitting as opposed to public. And the cost can be in the order of three times as well. So, one of the things we have to do as a country is streamline, accelerate our permitting on federal lands. That's going to be so key to bridge the digital divide in rural areas."
The FirstNet trucks, called SatColts, and other equipment of theirs have been present at various events in Casper, like during the solar eclipse in 2017 and the recent Trump rally on Saturday, to enhance or provide cell service if that service goes down due to a large number of people or disasters.
Chris Stratmann, the section chief with response operations group AT&T, said they've purchased over 90 vehicles that are stationed across the country, some in Wyoming, that are able to deploy to areas that they're needed.
Stratmann said that the trucks cost around $750,000 each and came solely from AT&T funding
Keith McPheeters, Casper Police Chief, said that they are able to call in trucks like that for certain events and that they hope to buy a smaller version of the truck, in the form of a trailer attachment, by the end of the year for around $70,000.
The Casper police were the first police department to start using FirstNet in 2017 and have since expanded their use of the equipment to over 500 devices, which currently costs them around $14,000 every month.
McPheeters said that the department's use of the equipment has expanded significantly since 2017, which has caused the cost to increase by some amount in the past five years.
"Every one of my cars is driving around with a functional hotspot, and that computer, that the officer is using, is using that hotspot, then the camera systems are using that hotspot. And so we have that mobile platform and every one of these marked race vehicles, so that that information can come and go as it is needed."