By Dave Buchanan, FirstNet Director of State Consultation
One year ago today, FirstNet held the first initial state consultation meeting in Maryland. While the meeting in Annapolis was not the beginning of FirstNet’s consultation process, it did mark a significant milestone along our Strategic Program Roadmap: to formally launch initial consultation meetings in all states and territories for the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN).
Since then, we have met with 43 states and territories – including our meeting in California this week – to discuss in detail their specific requirements for the network. These meetings have been attended by more than 2,600 public safety representatives and government officials from state, territory, local, federal, and tribal agencies operating in metropolitan and rural locations in their state or territory.
FirstNet has gained a better understanding about what it will take to deploy the network in the states and territories from these meetings. We have learned a great deal about the use of mobile broadband, coverage challenges, and emergency communications usage in each state and territory. We have also heard from small rural agencies and large urban departments about the benefits FirstNet will bring to public safety, including improved situational awareness at planned events and emergency response incidents, more efficient and effective response operations, and improved first responder safety.
This information, and the other information gathered during the initial consultation meetings, will help inform FirstNet’s Request for Proposals and the development of each state plan. The states’ and territories’ feedback has also helped us evolve and improve the consultation process over the past year to ensure the meetings address the unique priorities of each state and territory.
Moving forward, we are on track to complete initial consultation meetings in all 56 states and territories by the end of Fall 2015. But as we have said many times before, consultation is not a single event, nor does it end with this meeting. State consultation is an iterative, ongoing collaboration between FirstNet and regional, state/territory, local, and tribal stakeholders.
After completing the initial meetings, FirstNet intends to follow up with each state and territory beginning in 2016 to verify the results from the data collection effort and to engage with them on additional topics, such as priority and pre-emption, security, and training according to each state and territory’s needs.
FirstNet would like to recognize the state single points of contact (SPOCs) for their leadership on these initial consultation meetings. These meetings require a tremendous amount of planning and coordination to execute, and we thank the SPOCs for the impressive work they’ve done to make these initial consultation meetings successful. FirstNet would also like to recognize the public safety representatives who have attended the meetings for providing us with their input and feedback, as well as asking good questions about the network.
We look forward to continuing our consultations with each state and territory to plan, design, and ultimately deploy the NPSBN.