New FirstNet Cell Sites in the Black Hills Support First Responders

Cheryl Riley – President, AT&T Northern Plains States
May 17, 2023
Public Safety

New FirstNet Cell Sites in the Black Hills Support First Responders

When a bridge collapsed on Nemo Road northwest of Rapid City in the Black Hills National Forest in 2019, first responders at the time had difficulties using cellular devices in the area. Coverage gaps resulted in either very challenging or non-existent wireless service along that stretch of the road.

This event was just one example of how a lack of wireless coverage in the Black Hills and western South Dakota has impacted the ability of public safety to respond to incidents in the area.

And it reinforced why the South Dakota public safety community identified the Black Hills as an area in need of enhanced wireless coverage, including Nemo Road when working with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) and AT&T to deliver FirstNet® – the only network built with and for America’s first responders.

Now, first responders in the Black Hills are getting a major boost in their wireless communications. We’ve added several new, purpose-built cell sites to provide coverage in the Black Hills where there was previously limited to no wireless coverage.

These new FirstNet sites are addressing long recognized coverage gaps in the Black Hills and will provide coverage when traveling in Pennington County and Custer County.

  • Pennington County: New FirstNet sites will provide coverage in the Black Hills along South Castle Creek near the recreational area of Deerfield Lake – a place with no coverage previously – and in Three Forks near the intersection of U.S. Highways 16 and 385. Coverage has also been enhanced northwest of Rapid City around Nemo Road.
  • Custer County: A new FirstNet site will provide coverage west of the city of Custer along U.S. Highway 16 – a well-traveled highway from Custer, South Dakota, to New Castle, Wyoming, that previously has not had coverage.

In 2017, the federal government selected AT&T to build and maintain FirstNet. Since then, AT&T moved quickly to bring more coverage, boost capacity and drive new capabilities for South Dakota first responders and the communities they serve – rural and urban.

These new FirstNet sites provide critical wireless coverage in areas of South Dakota, including the Black Hills, with limited to no coverage previously – areas identified by the South Dakota Public Safety Broadband Council as a top priority. FirstNet sites have also focused on or near tribal lands in South Dakota, including the Lower Brule, Pine Ridge, Yankton, Cheyenne River, Lake Traverse and Standing Rock Reservations. Building out FirstNet is one way we’ve increased coverage by more than 40% on federally recognized tribal lands in the last 2 years (2020 – 2022).

“Pennington County was proud to be an early adopter of FirstNet in 2019 with the understanding that coverage in the county would only get better over time with the FirstNet build in South Dakota. We are very excited that AT&T has completed these additional sites in Pennington County to deliver FirstNet. These sites will improve coverage in the Black Hills and enhance the ability of our first responders to safely respond to incidents in the county.”


Sheriff Brian Mueller
Pennington County Sheriff’s Office



We’ve also added Band 14 on hundreds of sites across South Dakota, including the vast majority of sites in the Black Hills. Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. In an emergency, this band can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers. When not in use by FirstNet subscribers, AT&T customers can enjoy Band 14’s added coverage and capacity.

The FirstNet network expansion in South Dakota is supporting first responders throughout the state. Today, FirstNet is helping to connect public safety agencies and organizations in more than 100 communities across South Dakota.

We have a responsibility unlike any other network provider, and we couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission by bringing first responders and residents greater access to the connectivity they need in the Black Hills and across South Dakota.

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