STATE—Representatives from the PA Fire & Emergency Services Institute (PFESI) met with state legislators on Tuesday to inform them of public safety benefits of 5G technology, states a release from the PA Partnership for 5G.

Noting improved networks will allow first responders to better serve the public, Jerry Ozog, PFESI Executive Director stated in the release “Access to 5G networks will improve the capabilities of the new tools that first responders are using to keep the public safe, including body cameras, gunfire detection applications, or enhanced location-based services for 911 calls.”

While consumer 5G devices are soon to be available, Pennsylvania “...currently lacks the adequate infrastructure to access 5G technology...,” states the release, adding that “...deployment is dependent upon the rules and procedures set forth by each individual municipality in the Commonwealth, rather than one uniform and predictable statewide process.”

The Partnership is hopeful statewide legislation, expected to be introduced in the near future by Representative Frank Farry (R-Bucks), would help standardize fees, streamline the permitting process and enable small cell deployment.

Speaking to local network coverage, Wayne County Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith stated “Right now to my knowledge we have fairly good coverage. Cell phones are better, but there are still some troubled areas.”

The commissioners have cited repeatedly that local topography is a frequent challenge for installing new and updated communications infrastructure, working last year to install a repeater on a tower in Damascus Township to cover dead spots in the area.

Despite the existence of dead spots in the county, Smith noted 911 calls made from cell phones in dead spots will still route to the command center and triangulate a location.

Citing recent studies the county did around The Hideout, “even though it showed no cell service, we could still call 911 on our phones. So there is ...a priority given to 911 calls and so the satellites will still triangulate off of your cell phone and get somebody there.”

That being said, Smith noted concern persists that once on scene, communications may become difficult in areas with dead spots, “but we continue to try to make that better all the time.”

Helping the development of high-speed connectivity, Smith encouraged residents to download the “TestIT” mobile app developed by the National Association of Counties (NACo) to track and map coverage areas in the county.

“There needs to be an accurate accountability for the dead spots,” said Smith, adding that researchers at the state and federal level “...have determined that there is a huge population that is underserved.”

—Information from a release was used in this story.