FirstNet Early Builders Cite Successes, Challenges

LAS VEGAS – March 23, 2016. Representatives of the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) five early builder projects provided updates today on their initiatives at the IWCE show here today and said they are pleased that the programs are providing lessons that can help FirstNet and states. Pat Mallon, executive director of the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS), said that his system met a Sept. 30 deadline for deploying 77 sites – down from the original planned 230 sites after it ran into fire union, politician, and community opposition to the siting of cell sites over health and aesthetic concerns.

Mr. Mallon noted that Congress passed legislation last year that gives Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) projects until fiscal year 2020 to complete spending on their projects, an extension from Sept. 30, 2015 (TRDaily, Oct. 19, 2015). He also noted that LA-RICS is doing RF testing in response to firefighter health concerns, saying that the readings from sites show “extremely low” levels. Enhanced readings are being done at 12 sites where towers were installed at fire stations, he said. Continue reading

State Officials Complain that Rivada Urging States to Opt Out

LAS VEGAS – March 23, 2016. Two state officials said at the IWCE show here today that they have heard that representatives of Rivada Networks LLC have urged the governor’s office in their states to opt out of having the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) partner build their radio access networks (RANs). During a session this morning, Michael Saltzman, project manager in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety & Security, said that there was word that Rivada had pushed an opt-out “solution.”

“North Carolina had the same experience,” said Red Grasso, assistant director of FirstNetNC.

Mr. Saltzman told TRDaily after the session that Rivada had met with “somebody in the executive office level” without involving Curtis Wood, who is the FirstNet single point of contact and the state’s undersecretary-forensic science and technology. Continue reading

Draft Lifeline Order Would “Undermine” State Programs, NARUC’s Ramsay Says

The draft Lifeline order currently circulating at the FCC “as it is currently described to me … will undermine state matching programs and certainly make them less effective, and lead to more fraud and abuse,” Brad Ramsay, general counsel of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, said today during the Free State Foundation’s Telecom Policy Conference. The draft order, as circulated, would extend Lifeline support to standalone and bundled broadband services, create a streamlined federal process for providers not currently participating in the program to become certified, and establish a program budget of $2.25 billion, indexed to inflation (TRDaily, March 8).

The introduction of an optional national process for the FCC to certify providers as “Lifeline Broadband Providers”—as an alternative to the existing state-certification of eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs)—would “undermine state-matching programs” that provide additional state-funded Lifeline support, Mr. Ramsay said.  Continue reading

Experts Raise Issues with Progress of FirstNet

LAS VEGAS – March 22, 2016. Experts today raised a number of issues with the progress being made by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), although they stressed that they want the entity to succeed. During a session this afternoon at the IWCE show here, Joe Hanna, a consultant and former local public safety official and Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International president, said that FirstNet has been hindered, especially in its first two years, by excessive oversight by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, where FirstNet is housed as an independent entity. But he said that it has made “tremendous strides” in the last two years as it has become more independent, although “not as independent as I would like to see it.”

Mr. Hanna, however, took issue with some matters concerning FirstNet’s request for proposals (RFP), including the length of time it took to release it. “There are a number of major players who should be in this … bid process who will not be in the process because of some of the requirements,” Mr. Hanna also said, “and I think that’s unfortunate.” Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, March 25, 2016

Not being at the IWCE show in Las Vegas this week has been tough for me as I have attended for so many years and always enjoyed it. However, circumstances prevented me from attending in person this time so I have been experiencing it vicariously by reading as many of the press releases as possible, the great reporting by both Urgent Communications and Mission Critical, lots of tweets, and of course emails and texts I am receiving from friends who are there. My impression from this distance is that it was once again a great show and this year it was truly about LMR and LTE.

FirstNet had a major presence at the event with many speaking slots and the ability to talk directly to attendees. The LMR vendors are getting serious about LTE and even LTE/LMR devices. While I have not seen the latest from Harris, Motorola, and others face to face, I have read with interest the product specifications. I still think FirstNet will start with LTE-only devices that cover FirstNet and at least one commercial network operator for LTE, and 3G, and that these devices will be an adjunct to, not a replacement for, LMR voice radios for a long time to come. Next will be combination LMR/LTE radios that have already been discussed and in some cases shown in early form at IWCE. These radios will morph over time into what I believe will become the standard radio type for the foreseeable future. They will provide solid Public Safety-grade LMR voice services, and good LTE video, data, and voice services.

It will be interesting to see what form factors emerge from the vendors. I still have to explain to vendors that have never built a radio (cell phones are radios) for the Public Safety market that in many cases, two-handed device operation is a non-starter for field use, and in the fire service especially, the ability to operate at least the basic functions of voice services when wearing gloves is also imperative. I understand that at IWCE this year there were many discussions and some good presentations about Mission-Critical PTT over LTE. While I won’t repeat what I wrote last week about the subject (posted on our website), I will say that I believe there is a disconnect between what the Public Safety community will trust their lives to and what can be provided in the near future. That is not to say that at some point it might be possible to move all voice communications over to FirstNet but planning to do so prematurely could prove disastrous for the Public Safety community. This is one of those cases where it might be helpful to put those pushing for Mission-Critical PTT over FirstNet sooner rather than later in a Scott Air Pack in a house full of smoke and then let them decide which technology they will trust their lives to today. But I digress!

IWCE is a great measure of how LMR and LTE (FirstNet and commercial) are coming together not necessarily to merge and become one but to be used as tools that provide different types and forms of communications. I started out before FirstNet explaining to people that today’s Public Safety professionals make extensive use of voice communications but the ability to send and receive video and data would be a welcome addition to their communications arsenal. Giving all of these tools to incident commanders and others during incidents and enabling normal daily Public Safety activities to be completed easier and faster in the field without having to return to the station to file a report will have great benefits and will result in saving lives and property. FirstNet is well on its way toward the day in the very near future when, hopefully, it will receive multiple responses to its RFP and then it can begin the process of finding the right fit for FirstNet and the Public Safety community. I plan to attend the next IWCE in 2017, and I expect that before that we will know who the prime contractor is and how FirstNet and the vendor plan to work together. However, the RFP submissions and the final award are only the beginning of a multi-year journey. Next Year’s IWCE will also be about LMR and broadband, and it will be interesting to see how far we will have progressed in the coming year. Andy Seybold
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First Responder Network Authority Weekly Update to the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) – March 21, 2016

FirstNet News

The Tribal Team participated in a meeting of the Indian Country Intelligence Network (ICIN) in Arizona on March 15 to discuss the FirstNet program.  Also present was the director of legislative affairs and tribal relations for the National Tribal Emergency Management Council (NTEMC).  ICIN is an international, intertribal organization whose data sharing policies and practices are successfully resolving hesitations to share data among tribal elected leaders and public safety officials.  Additionally, on March 16, the Tribal Team provided a FirstNet briefing to the Board of Advisors of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA).  The 184 American Indian nations that are voting members include some of the most influential and politically active tribes in the country.

FirstNet’s four Board Committees and the full FirstNet Board held an open meeting on March 16.  To view all materials from that meeting, please click HERE.  During the meeting, FirstNet announced that the Band 14 Spectrum Relocation Grant Program was published on March 16 on grants.gov.  This program will provide financial assistance to eligible public safety entities for relocating their existing radios and systems from Band 14 in advance of the deployment of the nationwide public safety broadband network.

State and Territory single point of contact (SPOC) 2016 Engagement Kick-Off Meetings continued last week in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.  FirstNet has now completed meetings in 48 out of 56 states and territories.  The State plan process continues to be the most discussed topic.

On March 16, 10 federal agencies participated in the March Federal Agency Point of Contact teleconference.  FirstNet Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) staff presented on FirstNet’s expected applications ecosystem, agency-developed applications, and the value of such applications to public safety stakeholders. Additionally, the User Advocacy team discussed the proposed federal consultation task teams. Continue reading

CSMAC Reviews Preliminary Recommendations of Subcommittees

The Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC) this afternoon reviewed preliminary recommendations on a myriad of issues from its subcommittees and got an update from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on recent spectrum activities. NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling noted that NTIA is working to implement the Spectrum Pipeline Act, which passed Congress and became law last year (TRDaily, Nov. 2, 2015). He said the agency is looking forward to applications from agencies for money from the Spectrum Relocation Fund. He said the first applications are expected to make it through the process this year.

Mr. Strickling also noted that he and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler are hoping to identify before the end of this year the remaining spectrum necessary to meet the Obama administration’s goal of freeing up 500 megahertz of spectrum by 2020.  Mr. Strickling also noted that CSMAC members have been reappointed for six-month terms to allow them to complete their work during this cycle of the CSMAC. He said NTIA would shortly release a solicitation seeking CSMAC members for the next term. He said it is hoping to have the new CSMAC constituted by the end of this year. Continue reading