The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board today approved principles for reinvesting in the nationwide public safety broadband network being built by AT&T, Inc., and officials detailed plans to develop a road map to ensure continued enhancement of the system, including through the FirstNet investments. Also today, FirstNet signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) committing to collaborate on innovations dealing with rural emergency medical care and response and mobile broadband used by rural first responders in the state and nationwide.
“This is the only nationwide broadband network that public safety has a voice in. From the earliest consultation days through the launch of the network, public safety has been and will continue to be at the center of everything we do,” FirstNet Board Chairman Edward Horowitz said in a news release. “As we strive to fully realize the promise of FirstNet, we are engaging with public safety to chart a path forward for the network. Using their feedback, our Roadmap will advance the network and guide our investments over the next several years and beyond.”
At a joint meeting of the board and its four committees today in Jackson, Miss., the board adopted a resolution stating the investment principles. It says that investments must (1) “[b]e derived from and benefit public safety”; (2) “maintain and advance the foundation of the Network”; (3) “[c]onsider a balanced approach and provide value to public safety”; and (4) “[b]e fiscally responsible and reflect strong financial management[.]”
A slide used at today’s meeting said the first principle stresses that FirstNet “investments must clearly be informed by public safety and support our strategic objectives and Roadmap domains. We will directly engage public safety to capture their priorities, inputs and data to inform future improvements to the Network[.]”
Federal agency board members proposed and advanced these principles, said Robert (Tip) Osterthaler, chairman of the Finance Committee. “The purpose of these is to inform and guide investment decision-making,” he said. “It’s a great addition to the governance process.”
Ron Hewitt, assistant director-emergency communications for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency who represents DHS on the FirstNet board, said the investment principles will help ensure that the board meets its fiduciary duties.
Acting FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Ed Parkinson said that following the FirstNet board’s next meeting in June, FirstNet executives will bring investment ideas to the board. He stressed that FirstNet will consider input from the public safety community.
An earlier FirstNet road map focused on the issuance of a request for proposals (RFP) and an award of a contract to construct the nationwide public safety network. The new road map “will guide advancement of the Network by depicting a 2-to-5-year view of public safety operational needs, technology trends, and actionable opportunities,” according to a slide used at today’s meeting.
“To develop the Roadmap, the FirstNet Authority is engaging with the public safety community in various forums to capture their feedback on how broadband technology can serve their operational needs,” a news release said. “The Roadmap will incorporate industry trends through market research and outreach to the private sector, academia, and industry associations. This work will also enhance industry’s understanding of public safety’s communications needs. The FirstNet Authority will refresh the Roadmap to ensure it continuously accounts for public safety’s operational needs and industry trends.”
When FirstNet engages in discussions with first responders at forums and meetings or one-on-one, it will discuss these five topics: coverage and capacity, situational awareness, voice communications, secure information exchange, and user experience, according to David Buchanan, FirstNet’s executive director-public safety advocacy, and Jeremy Zollo, FirstNet’s director-Enterprise Strategy Division.
As the road map is developed, “public safety will continue to be in the driver’s seat,” said Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet’s chief technology and operations officer. The road map is designed to implement the FirstNet 2.0 strategic plan governing its actions through 2022.
Meanwhile, Mississippi, Commerce Department, FirstNet, UMMC, and other officials today highlighted the potential benefits of the MoU between FirstNet and UMMC.
A signing ceremony at UMMC this morning was attended by a number of officials, including Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R.), Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R., Miss.). “Through this collaboration with UMMC, the FirstNet Authority will gain critical insight into how medical incidents are handled in rural communities — specifically, how first responders can leverage innovative technologies to improve medical response and patient outcomes,” according to a news release. “The FirstNet Authority and the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services plan to create demonstrations related to rural first responders’ use of broadband to be incorporated into the FirstNet Authority’s new experience program. This program aims to introduce first responders to current and future technologies through hands-on educational and learning experiences.”
“This collaboration will allow FirstNet Authority to draw on the expertise of one of our nation’s leading academic medical centers so that we can improve the FirstNet experience for first responders in Mississippi and across the country,” Mr. Parkinson said in the release. “We are thankful for this opportunity to work with the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services as we focus our efforts on public safety officials serving in rural areas and providing them with tools they need to help improve patient outcomes.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Bratcher said that 79 devices have been listed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology as certified to be used on the FirstNet system, compared with fewer than a dozen a year ago.
Also at today’s meeting, it was announced that FirstNet Chief Administrative Officer Frank Freeman III is departing the authority this month for the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. His deputy, Donna Powell, will becoming acting CAO, while Marsha MacBride, associate administrator-Office of Public Safety Communications at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, where FirstNet is housed, will move over to Ms. Powell’s office on a temporary basis to focus on operations.- Paul Kirby, email@example.com