Horowitz Eyes FirstNet 2.0, Board Meeting With New Members

Edward Horowitz, the new chairman of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board, said the authority plans to discuss a “new vision” on Thursday at the first meeting of its newly constituted board.

In September, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reappointed Mr. Horowitz to a three-year term and appointed him chairman of the board (TR Daily, Sept. 5). He succeeded Sue Swenson, who was term-limited in leading the board and, along with Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson, resigned from FirstNet in August (TR Daily, Aug. 20). Mr. Horowitz named Hennepin County, Minn., Sheriff Richard Stanek as vice chairman of the board (TR Daily, Sept. 24). Mr. Horowitz joined the FirstNet board in 2015 (TR Daily, Aug. 19, 2015), and Sheriff Stanek was appointed in 2014 (TR Daily, Sept. 4, 2014).

In October, Mr. Ross announced the appointment of five new board members and the reappointment of Neil Cox (TR Daily, Oct. 31). The appointments brought the board to a full complement of 15 members for the first time since the end of 2016, when Barry Boniface resigned. Mr. Ross today officially swore in the new and reappointed board members

In an interview, Mr. Horowitz told TR Daily that he’s looking forward to Thursday’s meeting of the newly constituted board. The session will be a joint meeting of the board and its four committees. The meeting is scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center, 7901 Tysons One Place, McLean, Va.

FirstNet has released the committee assignments for board members. Mr. Horowitz, who most recently chaired the Finance Committee, will chair the Governance and Personnel Committee. Robert Osterthaler will chair the Finance Committee, Mr. Stanek will chair the Public Safety Advocacy Committee, and Mr. Cox will continue to chair the Technology Committee.

Mr. Horowitz, a venture capital and technology industry veteran who is currently founder and chairman of Edslink LLC, a venture capital firm, detailed several FirstNet activities that have kept him busy since he was appointed board chairman.

He noted that he worked with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, where FirstNet is housed, to finalize the new board appointments and to develop a process to hire a new permanent chief executive officer to replace Mike Poth, who left in September (TR Daily, Sept. 5) (Ed Parkinson is the acting CEO); named Sheriff Stanek as vice chair; appointed Todd Early chair of the board’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (TR Daily, Nov. 20); made committee assignments; and met with representatives of major public safety groups, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Sheriffs’ Association, and Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International.

“I’m getting to learn the public safety organizations and getting to meet the leadership on a more personal basis,” he said.

This week’s meeting will include a recap of FirstNet activities in 2018 and a preview of 2019, Mr. Horowitz said. “My priority going into ‘19 and beyond is really focused on the transition of FirstNet to what we affectionately call FirstNet 2.0, which is post the opt-in process,” Mr. Horowitz said.

He added that FirstNet is “really focused on awareness and making sure that we’ve got the strategic plan in place that enhances the awareness of FirstNet and its advocacy – not only to the public safety community, but to the ultimate customer, as well.”

AT&T, Inc., FirstNet’s network partner, is “in charge of the marketing,” Mr. Horowitz said. “But we remain and retain the role of advocacy on behalf of … the public safety community.”

“We’re going to make sure that our organization alignment continues to evolve in support of state network deployment for this year and beyond,” he added.

“This is a year in which we’ll have the process for … reinvestment into the network start,” he said, adding that reinvestment will be discussed at Thursday’s meeting.

FirstNet will have $78 million for reinvestment for fiscal year 2019, which began in October. During the life of its 25-year contract with AT&T, FirstNet plans to reinvest about $16 billion of the $18 billion it gets from AT&T, it has said in the past.

FirstNet 2.0 will focus on the device certification process, in which more than 50 devices have been approved; the apps ecosystem; coverage; and adoption, Mr. Horowitz said.

Mr. Horowitz said the staffing level at FirstNet has remained about the same, but job assignments have changed. Currently, FirstNet has 219 full-time employees, including those in its Reston, Va., headquarters; its Boulder, Colo., technical base; and its field teams.

For the time this week, AT&T plans to give a deployment status update at a FirstNet meeting. In October, the carrier said that more than 250,000 connections at more than 3,600 public safety agencies had been activated on the network (TR Daily, Oct. 23). AT&T says that construction of the FirstNet system is six months ahead of schedule. As of October, AT&T said it had completed one-third of the square miles of the network.

“When we were sitting here last year at this time, we were trying to figure out what the opt-in topography was going to look like, and it was not until the end of December that we got 100% opt-in,” noted Mr. Horowitz. “As I’m sitting here today … we’ve got hundreds of thousands of customers and thousands of organizations that are looking to AT&T to sign up their constituencies.” He added that he feels “pretty good” that AT&T has finished work on one-third of the network’s footprint. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily