Submitted AT&T is moving into Macon County with plans to build three cell phone towers and two FirstNet sites benefitting area law enforcement over a 1-2 year period - work on a location near Westside Elementary School is already underway.

Submitted

AT&T is moving into Macon County with plans to build three cell phone towers and two FirstNet sites benefitting area law enforcement over a 1-2 year period - work on a location near Westside Elementary School is already underway.

AT&T subscribers hurting for a local cell signal are in luck as the service provider looks to build several towers across Macon County during the coming months.

Work on the first project, a 190-foot tower near Westside Elementary, is already underway. There are also plans to build towers near Walmart in Lafayette and one the county's east side.

"We're hoping to have service available within the next few months," Macon County Mayor Steve Jones said. "I recently had a meeting with several AT&T representatives. One of their vice presidents was here. There will definitely be AT&T coverage in Macon County."

The company's move into Macon County is also part of its FirstNet initiative to provide a nationwide communications platform for first responders, with the full series of cell towers and FirstNet locations estimated for completion within one to two years.

"In Tennessee, the FirstNet build includes two locations within Macon County, which are currently in the site acquisition process," Ann Elsas, AT&T's lead public relations manager for the Southeast, said. "(The plan also includes) sites surrounding Macon County that will help to enhance the connected experience for FirstNet subscribers in the area."

Those FirstNet sites, along with existing sites in the county, will include a new spectrum called Band 14 that law enforcement agencies and first responders will control access to. The company's commercial spectrum will be in place as well.

"When it's not being consumed by FirstNet users, Band 14 can be used by regular consumers for added coverage and capacity," AT&T Regional Director of External Affairs Alan Hill said. "First responders have priority and can preempt or even remove people from that spectrum as needed."

Jones' talks with AT&T representatives date back at least two years, when state Rep. Kelly Keisling connected him with Hill to address the county's lack of AT&T coverage.

In addition to bringing wider cell service to the community, Hill said that FirstNet offers several advantages for law enforcement and first responders.

"Let's say there was a tornado, windstorm or wildfire," Hill said. "If everyone is getting on their phones to check conditions or see about evacuating, the network can overload, but first responders and law enforcement have full access (through Band 14). Day-to-day, having mobile data terminals in their vehicles allows them to communicate photos or details about a crime scene."

Local agencies would also be able to collaborate with those in neighboring communities if they were both using connected devices.

"Once these towers become active, our hope is to work with agencies like the Macon County Sheriff's Office and Lafayette Police Department to install FirstNet," Hill said. "The ability for visitors or business owners to connect to AT&T can also boost tourism and economic development, so there's a lot it could do for the area."