Public-Safety Broadband Network:FirstNet Has Made Progress Establishing the Network, but Should Address Stakeholder Concerns and Workforce Planning

What GAO Found

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has conducted key efforts to establish the network, namely releasing the request for proposal (RFP) for the network and awarding the network contract to AT&T. As the contractor, AT&T will be responsible for the overall design, development, production, operation, and evolution of the network. Additionally, FirstNet consulted with state and local, federal, and tribal stakeholders. State officials GAO contacted were generally satisfied with FirstNet’s efforts to engage them. However, tribal stakeholders GAO contacted expressed concern that FirstNet has not fully engaged in effective communication with tribes.

Read complete GAO Report.

FirstNet engaged tribes through a variety of mechanisms, such as through state points of contact and a working group, but tribes noted that individuals with first-hand knowledge of tribes’ experiences are unable to represent tribal views directly among FirstNet’s key decision makers. Although FirstNet is required to consult with tribes through state points of contact, a key principle of effective tribal communication is to seek full understanding of tribal concerns and reach consensus where possible. By fully exploring and proposing actions to address tribal stakeholders’ concerns, FirstNet could help improve its relations with tribes and better meet stakeholders’ needs.

According to stakeholders GAO contacted, FirstNet faces various challenges to ensure the network’s reliability, security, and interoperability. For example, stakeholders raised concerns related to:

  • providing coverage to rural areas, in buildings, or underground;
  • ensuring the network’s overall resiliency and cybersecurity; and
  • managing frameworks for user identity, credentialing of users, access management, and prioritization of users on the network.

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Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, July 20, 2017

MCPTT over LTE and Direct Mode
[Not quite] Mission Critical PTT over LTE is being tested and put into service for live network beta testing. Two things are missing from these trials and tests: a mission-critical or public safety-grade network for the Mission Critical Push-To-Talk application to run over and perhaps more importantly, the way forward to provide direct-mode communications. The UK’s LTE system for public safety to go live in 2020 and replace its existing Tetra system is probably, at the moment, the most robust of the existing LTE networks available.

Recently in France, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) held MCPTT testing sessions and a number of vendors participated to see how well they performed and if they met the 3GPP Release of LTE version 13, which includes specifications for on-network push-to-talk services but does not yet address the issue of direct-mode on and off-network communications. In many instances, direct-mode PTT is as important and in some instances, more important than network-based PTT services. While I recently wrote an Advocate about PTT over LTE and over Land Mobile Radio (LMR) that detailed some of this information, there are a number of things happening in Europe and especially the United Kingdom that could have far reaching effects on how and when PTT services are actually deployed over LTE on and off-network systems.  Read the full blog here Continue reading

FEMA Plans Nationwide EAS Test September 27

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has informed the FCC that it plans to conduct another nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on September 27. A secondary date for the test would be October 4, FEMA told the Commission in a July 14 ex parte filing in PS docket 15-94.

The second nationwide EAS test was held last September (TR Daily, Sept. 28, 2016). In April, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released a report that recommended the agency take several actions in the wake of last year’s nationwide EAS test, including encouraging the use of FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) as the primary source of alerts and examining how to improve and expand IPAWS alert content (TR Daily, Apr. 21).

Courtesy TRDaily


GPS Alliance Supports 1 dB Interference Standard

The GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) says it supports a 1 dB standard for determining harmful interference. In an ex parte filing posted July 14 in IB dockets 12-340 and 11-109, the GPSIA cited testing conducted under the National Advanced Spectrum and Communications Test Network (NASCTN) on the impact of LTE signals on GPS receivers (TR Daily, Feb. 17). “The test results provide both direct and indirect support for the use of the historic and well-established standard for determining harmful interference – whether an interfering signal produces a 1 dB decrease in the Carrier-to-Noise Power Density Ratio (‘C/N0’) of the affected receiver,” the GPSIA said.

“The standard is also amply supported not only by precedent and use in applicable technical standards but is also based upon well understood technical characteristics of GNSS receivers and the impact of noise on the performance of these receivers, all of which remain valid today.” Ligado Networks LLC has argued that the testing confirmed Ligado’s argument that a 1 dB increase in the noise floor is not the appropriate standard for assessing harmful interference to GPS receivers. What matters is the actual performance of the devices in the presence of LTE signals, the company says.

Courtesy TRDaily

States Say They Need More Information about FirstNet Plan Before Opting In

SAN DIEGO – Public safety communications representatives from California and Colorado said they need clarity and more granular information about the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) state plan before they can recommend their governors choose to allow AT&T, Inc., FirstNet’s network partner, to build a radio access network in their states.

FirstNet was the topic of a panel July 16 held in conjunction with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ (NARUC) Summer Policy Summit here this week. FirstNet and AT&T on June 19 delivered to states plans for AT&T to build and maintain their RANs as part of a nationwide interoperable public safety communications network envisioned by 2012 federal legislation.  The individual plans were made available on a restricted access basis through an online portal, but Patrick Mallon, assistant director-public safety communications for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said the plan doesn’t contain any additional information to what’s already been available.

“I do not believe the state plan that is being delivered to us is actionable,” he said. “I haven’t seen enough clarity, granularity in the state plan that we received.  There is more work that needs to be done, in my opinion. And there’s not enough in there that I can make a recommendation to the governor.” Continue reading

NTIA Group OKs Guidance for Informing IoT Device Users about Security Upgrades

Guidance on how manufacturers of Internet of things (IoT) devices should communicate with consumers about security upgrades for those devices was adopted today by a multistakeholder group organized by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The four-page document approved by the group advises providers of IoT devices to “consider communicating to consumers prior to purchase” whether a device can receive security upgrades, how those upgrades will be delivered, and the date on which the device will no longer receive upgrades.

“The ideal level of detail and the method of communication may differ across manufacturers, software providers, and product and service categories, as well as across buyer types,” it says.  “These voluntary communications may evolve over time as threats, solutions, and products change, and as needed to be consistent with consumers’ familiarity, expectations, and security needs.” Continue reading

NARUC Telecom Committee Approves High-Cost Funding, BDAC Resolutions

SAN DIEGO – The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Committee on Telecommunications today passed a draft resolution calling for sufficient funding of the high-cost universal service program, and another draft resolution urging the FCC to increase the number of state and local entities represented on its Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC). The first proposed resolution, sponsored by a group of commissioners including South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner Chris Nelson, Nebraska Public Service Commissioner Crystal Rhoades, and Missouri Commissioner Maida Coleman, calls on the FCC to take the necessary steps to address the “lack of sufficient USF resources on availability and affordability of voice and broadband services in rural America.”

“We’re all trying to get broadband in places that don’t have it,” Commissioner Nelson said during today’s meeting. “The FCC has been working on this, but they haven’t completed the puzzle. This resolution is one more piece in that particular puzzle.” He added, “This resolution is asking the FCC, ‘Hey, finish the job that you started.’ It’s really that simple.” Continue reading