Photo of a replica steam locomotive train at Golden Spike National Historical Park next to a photo of FirstNet Authority Senior Public Safety Advisor Tracey Murdock and FirstNet AT&T standing in front of a FirstNet deployable.

From Dots and Dashes to Streaming Video

On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit in what was then known as the Utah Territory, a telegraph operator communicated a play-by-play of two trains meeting in a remote valley 90 miles from Salt Lake City.  When the vehicles drew close together, the operator used electronic dots and dashes to tap out the news: “Done.” A simple act, this meeting marked one of the major technological accomplishments of that era — the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. It was an engineering marvel that reduced cross-country travel from months to under two weeks.

Over 7,000 people traveled by horse and buggy to the dusty site in their best top hats and bonnets to celebrate the momentous day. The transcontinental railroad was more than a line of track for speedy travel; it was a symbol of unity, bringing the country together as one. President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 authorizing the venture. To spur competition, Congress made it a race between two companies to lay the most track. Government and industry worked together for the public good. It was the result of vision, leadership, perseverance, and cooperation.

On May 10, 2019, 150 years later at the same dusty summit, thousands of people once again came together to celebrate the moment when the last spike of the railroad — a ceremonial spike of gold — was driven into 1,800 miles of track linking East with West. Except this time, it occurred in the great State of Utah and FirstNet was there — providing revolutionary public safety communications to support the occasion. The Utah National Guard relied on FirstNet to communicate information via voice, text, photographs, and video and help keep over 30,000 people safe as they celebrated the anniversary of the golden spike. 

Like the transcontinental railroad, FirstNet was inspired by the desire to unite — in this case, to unite public safety and help them communicate and operate more effectively. Public safety trailblazers fought for the creation of their own dedicated broadband network, and now, because of their tireless efforts and dedication to a common cause, FirstNet is a reality. The First Responder Network Authority is proud to support Utah’s public safety community and first responders across the country.

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