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Sen. Rockefeller hopeful for more advances because of his law for first-responder network

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U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was impressed with communications at the Boy Scout Jamboree, and he wants to see it continue to improve.

Rockefeller recently met with first responders, the West Virginia National Guard and local officials to tour the Join Interagency Task Force operations, headquartered at the Glen Jean Armory.

Rockfeller talked about future communication plans, and how the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act would enhance their abilities to work together.

Rockefeller wrote the Act, which was included in tax relief legislation that passed last year.

It will allow a nationwide, high-speed network that will, for the first time, enable police, firefighters, EMS workers and other state and federal first responders to communicate wirelessly when responding to natural disasters or other crises.

That new, high-speed network is called FirstNet, and according to Rockefeller, it will help prevent the kind of communication failures that occurred during rescue efforts at Ground Zero on 9/11 and at Upper Big Branch when first responders could not access a single, unified network to communicate with one another.

"FirstNet, a state-of-the-art, high-speed wireless network currently being rolled out is going to absolutely revolutionize first responder communications nationwide," Rockefeller said in a news release. "And it will have a profound impact on future Boy Scout Jamborees."

West Virginia Division of Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato said deploying FirstNet will be a "huge accomplishment in furthering public safety interoperability and information sharing."

"For 2013, West Virginia is running multiple networks and systems for the management of the Jamboree," Gianato said in a news release. "The capabilities created as a result of West Virginia's BTOP grant program were a key contributor to the successful communications capabilities necessary to support an event of this magnitude."

Rockefeller said he was impressed by the communications network being utilized by first responders at the Jamboree, and said FirstNet will build on that by providing state-of-the-art data capabilities.

West Virginia Adjutant General Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer said FirstNet will provide a cost-effective, reliable alternative to the use of satellite or commercial carrier wireless data networks.

"This is critical to future Jamborees and state disaster response efforts because it will enhance first responder access to mobile video, mapping data, position based location services and a myriad of other technologies," Hoyer said in a news release.