Earthquake tests new wireless network in far-flung Alaska

Anchorage police are among public safety agencies across the country that are tapped into FirstNet, a new national wireless network dedicated to first responders.(AP)

A major earthquake that rocked Alaska proved to be a trial run in the state's largest city for a new national wireless network dedicated to first responders.

Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll and other commanders had just signed on to test the FirstNet network on their personal cellphones when the 7.1 magnitude quake struck last year.

After it caused widespread damage and knocked out phone lines, Doll says officials with FirstNet were the only ones who could communicate without problems.

Public safety agencies nationwide are tapped into the network established by Congress in 2012 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It launched last year.

The network is secure, encrypted and off limits to the public. It's raised concerns among media advocates that the secrecy shields police from scrutiny.

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