Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate August 21, 2015

BEFORE I even get to the news of the week, if you receive a news article or a link to “The History of FirstNet and the Public Safety Broadband Network” with the site DO NOT open it. It will take you to a porn site and could infect your computer or smartphone. Just delete it. Does the fact that the porn industry is now using FirstNet as an enticement to gain customers mean that FirstNet has “arrived” on the Internet? I hope not!

Okay, now on to the REAL news! The APCO 2015 Conference held in Washington, DC is now in the history books and it was one of the best I have been to in a few years. Lots of good sessions, and some were repeated so we could go to all the ones we wanted to attend. FirstNet folks were front and center, and the sessions I went to were very well attended and for the most part, had good content. Congrats to APCO!

Next up is that FirstNet is showing signs of truly becoming the “Independent Authority” residing within NTIA it was supposed to be. The first real signs of this were manifested on Monday when FirstNet announced a new CEO, Mike Post, and that TJ Kennedy will be President of FirstNet. Until now those within NTIA who felt the need to run FirstNet as part of NTIA forbad FirstNet from having either a CEO or a President. I truly hope this marks the start of a new independence from NTIA and the federal government so FirstNet can get on with the business at hand. Congrats not only to Mike and TJ but to the new board members as well, and it is with regret that we say thanks to Tim Bryan of NRTC who was a board member and head of the finance committee, perhaps the most thankless job a board member could have. Tim did not seek re-appointment because he was concerned that moving forward there could be some questions about conflicts of interest since NRTC holds a key (I believe) to FirstNet coverage in rural America. I wish Tim well and thank him for his time on the board. NPSTC has done an amazing amount of work this year.

This all-volunteer organization blends Public Safety with vendors, with federal agency representation, consultants, and others, and turns out an incredible amount of important work that is then forwarded to the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) for FirstNet and then on to FirstNet with PSAC comments or changes.

The latest NPSTC work is truly another great accomplishment: Public Safety Needs for Priority and Quality of Service in the Nationwide Broadband Public Safety Network (the report is available here: ). It is well worth the time to read it. Congrats to NPSTC for another great job!

The last item is to thank AT&T for sponsoring the yearly APCO block party. I am in awe of AT&T and its staff for renting the entire Smithson Aero Space Museum, and the food and beverages never ended. I don’t have a clue what AT&T paid for this event but I enjoyed it and have to believe its support of Public Safety is not only to show its appreciation, especially since the FirstNet RFP is still scheduled for release in December. If any of our readers would like to review the 30 pages of comments I filed on the RFP document, please let me know and I will be happy to send you a PDF copy of the comments. Have a great weekend and week! Andy

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Comment Sought on 900 MHz Petition

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau sought comments on a petition for rulemaking filed by M2M Spectrum Networks LLC asking the FCC to permit use of 900 megahertz band business/industrial/land transportation channels to provide for-profit service to entities eligible to use those frequencies. Comments are due Sept. 21 and replies Oct. 6 in Rulemaking 11755.


FirstNet Cites SPOC Progress on Data Collection

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) said that a recent survey of state single points of contact (SPOC) indicated good progress in collecting data by a Sept. 30 deadline. In a blog posting, Amanda Hilliard, FirstNet’s director-outreach, said that during individual calls last month, “SPOCs were asked to estimate, on a scale of 1 to 5, their progress, with 1 indicating that data collection was in progress and ahead of schedule, and 5 indicating that collection had not yet started and the state would probably not be able to meet FirstNet’s September 30 deadline for submitting data. Continue reading

DHS IG Says Agency Must Improve Interoperability Gear Grant Guidance

The Department of Homeland Security’s grant guidance for acquiring public safety communications equipment has failed to include specific requirements to ensure that gear is interoperable, the DHS Office of Inspector General said in audit findings released today.  The audit, which was conducted at the request of members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, found that guidance issued by the Office of Emergency Communications and the Federal Emergency Management Agency “is unclear, inconsistent, and does not prevent grantees from purchasing non-interoperable communications equipment.”

The report noted that OEC developed the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) and SAFECOM guidance for public safety agencies, but that neither “dictates specific requirements when purchasing emergency communications equipment. FEMA’s grant guidance also does not specify interoperability requirements.”

It said that “OEC officials explained that they do not have the legislative authority to mandate the requirements in the SAFECOM Guidance or issue additional requirements-based guidance.”

OIG personnel interviewed nine statewide interoperability coordinators, all of whom said that “SAFECOM Guidance is the primary DHS grant guidance they use to advise grantees purchasing interoperable communications equipment. However, five statewide coordinators indicated that the SAFECOM Guidance language was not clear and consistent when describing requirements for compliance with interoperability standards.”

The OIG recommended that DHS’s under secretary-management ensure that OEC and FEMA “develop consistent requirements-based language in grant guidance and grant agreement documents to ensure DHS uses its grant funds to purchase interoperable emergency communications equipment.”

OIG also said that the FEMA administrator should “ensure consistency in Public Safety Communications grant guidance between the Funding Opportunity Announcements and the grant award packages, which include the DHS Standard Terms and Conditions.”

Read report here:

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Wheeler Says He Will Ask Congress to Help Spur NG-9-1-1 Deployment

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that he plans to ask Congress to a take a number of steps to help facilitate the deployment of next-generation 911 (NG-911) services, including authorizing a national maps database, tasking the FCC with helping states audit 911 fund spending, and authorizing additional grants.

“While the Congress has enacted important 911 legislation over the last 20 years, the legislative framework largely adopted in 1999 has been outstripped by changes in technology, changes in the marketplace, and changes in consumer behavior,” Mr. Wheeler said in a luncheon speech at the APCO 2015 show. “To effectively implement NG-911, we need to amend our laws in ways that reflect the changing realities on the ground. Over the coming months, I want to work with Congress to do just that.”

Mr. Wheeler said that “state and local authorities need the best possible tools to do the job.  We at the Commission will do our part, but an effective and efficient NG-911 can only become a reality if our state and local partners are empowered to act on the new vision.

“For example, the maps our PSAPs use to identify where callers are calling from should not end at the county or state line. … Congress could authorize establishment of a national maps database to ensure that every PSAP has access to the latest and most accurate maps and uses them. As maps increasingly include the third dimension, approaching this issue in a consistent, effective and efficient manner will be money well spent.” Continue reading

States Say They Will Meet September 30 Data Submission Deadlines

Several state officials said today they will meet a Sept. 30 deadline for turning in data to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), although they said they will continue to update and refine their data after that period so it can factored into state plans.  FirstNet has asked for data on coverage objectives, capacity, users and operations, and current service.

“We’ll meet the deadline of Sept. 30th with some basic information, but we see it as an iterative process to where we’ll continually provide more and more data to FirstNet throughout the engagement process with them that will not stop until the state plan,” Ryan Burchnell, chief technology officer for the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, said during a session this morning at the APCO 2015 show. He said the state has received about 750 responses to a survey of users. Continue reading

McGinnis Says He’s Optimistic about Future of FirstNet

Newly reappointed First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board member Kevin McGinnis recounted the challenges that proponents of a nationwide public safety broadband network have faced and said he’s optimistic about where FirstNet is going.  “I’m about as optimistic as you can get about this project,” Mr. McGinnis, who has been appointed to a new three-year term (see separate story), said at a town hall at the APCO 2015 show. “It’s going to work. I am convinced of that or I wouldn’t spend my time doing this.”

Public safety leaders sought for years to convince Congress to reallocate the 700 megahertz band D-block to public safety and to reserve funds for a nationwide network, Mr. McGinnis observed, and after FirstNet was established in 2012, there were early growing pains. They included industry and public safety board members who didn’t know each other well and had different views on how things should proceed, he said, with  industry veterans wanting to move ahead quickly to construct the network and public safety representatives stressing the importance of consultation and transparency. Continue reading

Pritzker Reappoints McGinnis, Parker to FirstNet Board, Appoints Two New Members

The Commerce Department announced the reappointment of Kevin McGinnis and Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D.) to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board and the appointment of two new members to replace Tim Bryan and Frank Plastina, who did not want to be reappointed. The new industry board members are Neil Cox, a technology executive with a background in the telecom sector, and Edward Horowitz, a venture capitalist who also has telecom experience. The four board members announced today have been appointed to three-year terms. The terms of the four board members whose terms were up expire tomorrow.

“I appreciate the willingness of these individuals to serve our nation by lending their expertise to the task of building this historic nationwide public safety broadband network,” said Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. “The Board will continue the important work of ensuring our firefighters, police, and emergency responders have the most advanced technology to communicate effectively and save lives.”

“I am confident that the FirstNet Board has the right mix of individuals with varied experiences in public safety, telecommunications, finance and state and local government to effectively oversee the FirstNet organization as it plans for the deployment of this historic network,” said Lawrence E. Strickling, administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, where FirstNet is housed as an independent authority. “I also want to thank Tim Bryan and Frank Plastina for their service to this important mission.” Continue reading