AT&T is providing three months of free wireless service on the FirstNet network to physicians and nurses dealing with the coronavirus response in the US, the company announced.
Nurses and physicians in the US and US territories who are already on FirstNet mobile responder plans will get the three-month credit applied automatically to a line of service for a smartphone or tablet. Beginning today, new subscribers also will be eligible for the credit. Nurses and physicians can also get a $200 activation credit for a FirstNet-ready smartphone on a new FirstNet mobile responder plan.
Actor John Krasinski mentioned the deal on the Sunday episode of his new YouTube series Some Good News. He and former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz also surprised a group of nurses at a Boston hospital with a visit to Fenway Park during the episode.
AT&T helped build out the FirstNet network in a public-private partnership with the US government. A key feature is that it prioritizes first responders’ calls and traffic over the network, using preemption to block some consumer traffic (except 911 calls).
The difference between FirstNet and other first-responder networks is that it’s built on physically separate hardware from AT&T’s own network, giving first responders “their own separate, nationwide broadband network.”
But as FierceWireless explains, other carriers — like Verizon — have taken issue with that, claiming that since only AT&T has full interoperability with FirstNet, other carriers’ traffic may not be prioritized in an emergency situation. AT&T, on the other hand, has said that traffic to any FirstNet device gets prioritized regardless of which network it comes from.