All 50 states will get wireless network for first responders

A police officer speaks into his radio in Times Square. Photo: Andrew Burton / Getty Images

All 50 states — and Washington D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico — have opted to join the first nationwide mobile broadband network specifically dedicated to first-responders, known as FirstNet. It will be built out next year.

Why it matters: Firefighters, paramedics, police officers and other first responders have historically been at a disadvantage when it comes to mobile communications. Local jurisdictions use different communication technologies that are not interoperable, so first responders from different cities or states have not been able to communicate effectively during emergencies, when commercial networks tend to be more congested. Public safety officials have been pushing for a nationwide network for first-responders' use since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.