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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the FirstNet/University of Mississippi Medical Center MOU Signing


Thank you, Governor Bryant, for your kind words and your leadership on the important issue of reviving rural America through the widespread adoption of broadband technologies.

Thank you to everyone at the University of Mississippi Medical Center for being part of this exciting collaboration. Dr. Woodward and Dr. Darsey, we greatly appreciate your cooperation and dedication to this crucial endeavor.

Thank you, also, to FirstNet Acting CEO Edward Parkinson, our FirstNet Board Chair Edward Horowitz, and all of the members of FirstNet community who are here today. It was only this past December that several of the FirstNet Board members were in Washington, D.C., being sworn in to their new roles, and you are already producing results.

We are pleased that U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith could join us, and we thank you, too, for your support. It says a lot about the importance of this project at the University of Mississippi Medical Center to have the U.S. Senator from Mississippi join you in this ceremony.

As the headlines tell us every day, emergencies happen anywhere, and at any time, including just this past week with the historic “Bomb Cyclone” that spawned tornadoes in Mississippi and has led to record flooding just upstream from us in Nebraska on the Missouri River.

To deal with major emergency situations, high-speed data transfer and communications among first responders is a top priority. But in too many states, a rural broadband emergency response network does not exist.

Lives and livelihoods are at risk.

Today, the new center of excellence here at the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services will address the barriers that plague so many first responders, firefighters, police officers, and paramedics in rural areas. Transferring the lessons learned and the innovative practices developed by your center into real applications in the field will help public safety agencies throughout the country.

We are very excited that this new collaboration will have a specific focus on rural applications of the FirstNet model. We have two great partners to provide connectivity that wasn’t there before.

Developing such applications as live video streaming to a hospital of this caliber from an ambulance, from rural clinics, or local triage centers will be a quantum leap forward in protecting the people who live in rural communities. 

Knowing that such a dependable, broadband network exists will add to their sense of security. Such a network will enable more people to live comfortably in rural communities without the fear associated with isolation and the lack of nearby medical facilities.

What you are doing here is important to the future of rural America, which feeds the nation and much of the world, and generates so much of the country’s wealth. It is real progress, and is the basis upon which rural America can once again thrive.

We are all acutely aware that every state has rural communities, and that we are all dependent on the real output of our country’s rural residents. Besides, there are millions of Americans in cities who spend hours every week on their computers and smart phones touring bucolic properties on Zillow and dreaming about living in the country.

That is why we are all so committed to making what you do here a reality, not only for the Americans who already reside in the rustic towns and farmlands of our nation, but for the dedicated professionals in the emergency response community who so honorably and faithfully serve them.

Governor Bryant, you have been an ardent advocate for Mississippi’s first responders. We look forward to working with you as this network broadens from your state to every state in our country.

Thank you, again, everyone, for your all of your efforts to achieve this urgent and worthy goal that is so consequential to the future of our nation.