Parkinson: FirstNet ‘Will Become Stronger’ After Nashville Bombing & More News

Courtesy TR Daily

Parkinson: FirstNet ‘Will Become Stronger’ After Nashville Bombing

The nationwide public safety broadband network that AT&T, Inc., is building for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) “will become stronger” because of a Christmas Day 2020 bombing in Nashville that severely damaged an AT&T central office, resulting in outages to FirstNet subscribers (TR Daily, Jan. 4), FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Ed Parkinson said today.

“We will learn from this event—public safety will learn from this event—and ultimately the FirstNet system will become stronger as a result of this,” Mr. Parkinson said during a quarterly meeting of the FirstNet board and its committees held via video conferencing.

Mr. Parkinson added that he appreciates the “no-holds-barred, direct information” that FirstNet has received from FirstNet subscribers about the impact of the bombing on their service.

Last month, FirstNet board Chairman Robert (Tip) Osterthaler, Vice Chairman Richard Carrizzo, and other FirstNet officials traveled to Tennessee and Kentucky to meet with public safety users that were impacted by the outages (TR Daily, Feb. 2). FirstNet also has had virtual discussions with public safety officials and state, local, and federal users. Those discussions continue.

Mr. Parkinson said that FirstNet is working to “develop this comprehensive picture” to review the impact of the bombing on public safety operations.

“Ultimately, we plan to make recommendations to AT&T that will enhance the user experience,” he said.

Also during today’s meeting, which lasted less than 45 minutes, Mr. Osterthaler said that FirstNet is waiting for the Biden administration to appoint a new designee on the board representing the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

In addition, Todd Early, chairman of the board’s Public Safety Advisory Committee, said that the chair of its tribal working group, Danae Wilson, who has represented the National Congress of American Indians, is departing. She has also served on the PSAC’s executive committee.

During the meeting, Dave Buchanan, FirstNet’s director-public safety engagement, outlined advocacy efforts during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021—the last three months of calendar year 2020—and plans for the rest of the year.

During the first quarter, there were 23 focus groups with public safety stakeholders from 33 states, 93 national events, 310 public safety engagements, and more than 10,000 stakeholders reached, according to Mr. Buchanan.

Looking ahead, he said, FirstNet wants to focus on demonstrations; emphasize collaboration with industry, academia and government; and “document and publish actionable feedback … in order to improve the FirstNet experience.” The authority wants to continue to grow the public safety marketplace while focusing on a new and expanded marketplace that involves industry, academia, and government partners, he said.

Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet’s chief network and technology officer, and Mr. Parkinson said they were pleased that there are now 1.9 million subscribers on the FirstNet system from more than 15,000 public safety agencies and organizations (TR Daily, Jan. 27), and Mr. Bratcher said the deployment of Band 14 remains ahead of schedule, with 80% deployed.

Mr. Bratcher also said that more than 256 FirstNet devices are available, 193 of which support Band 14, and more than 166 apps are in the FirstNet catalog.

The officials also welcomed AT&T’s recent announcement of several offerings, including those dealing with Z-axis location-accuracy, high-power user equipment, and land mobile radio interoperability for push-to-talk enhancements. —Paul Kirby,

Strengthen CISA to Boost Federal Cybersecurity, House Committee Told

To improve the cybersecurity of civilian executive branch agencies, Congress should go further to give the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency authority to impose cybersecurity requirements on agencies and allow it to be the cybersecurity service provider for those agencies, the House Homeland Security Committee was told today.

“CISA needs to become a shared service provider for cybersecurity for agencies.  When you look at over 130 executive branch agencies, the vast majority of them will never have the talent, the expertise, or the resources to defend themselves against the most sophisticated nation-states,” Dmitri Alperovitch, executive chairman of the Silverado Policy Accelerator, told the committee.

CISA became a stand-alone operational component of the Department of Homeland Security in late 2018 when President Trump signed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act.  Under its initial director, Christopher Krebs, CISA accelerated its efforts to provide shared services to civilian agencies.  At today’s hearing, however, Mr. Krebs described what happened during his tenure as a “half step.”

“We need to take that full step.  Agencies … are simply not in a position to secure themselves all by themselves,” Mr. Krebs told the committee.  The federal government needs a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy for civilian executive branch agencies, he said, and that strategy should include mandates for all agencies to meet.

“Those requirements will likely be very onerous and very expensive, and I can think of maybe a handful of agencies that would be able to comply,” Mr. Krebs said.

Mr. Alperovitch, in his written testimony, recommended that Congress “take steps to set CISA on a path to becoming the operational CISO, or chief information security officer, of the civilian federal government.”

“Congress took an important step toward centralizing federal cybersecurity strategy by creating CISA in DHS in 2018, but the next step is to give CISA both the authority and the resources that it needs to effectively execute its mission,” he said.

“Ultimately, CISA should have the operational responsibility for defending civilian government networks, just as Cyber Command does for DoD networks,” he added.

Other recommendations from witnesses at the hearing, titled “Homeland Cybersecurity: Assessing Cyber Threats and Building Resilience,” focused on ways the federal government could coax the private sector into improving cybersecurity.

Sue Gordon, the former principal deputy director of national intelligence, noted that the federal government responded to the 1929 stock market crash by establishing the Securities and Exchange Commission and later requiring publicly-traded companies to use the standardized bookkeeping methods known as generally accepted accounting principles.

“In 2021 is it time for us to consider a bipartisan government and private sector approach to looking at generally accepted security principles?” she asked.  “It just isn’t satisfying to me” that private sector entities, especially those subject to SEC regulation, can decide for themselves how to protect their networks, she said.

Michael Daniel, who was the White House cybersecurity coordinator during the Obama administration and now is president and chief executive officer of the Cyber Threat Alliance, said the public and private sectors needed a more mature relationship to collaborate on cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity forces the government and the private sector into a different kind of relationship. Traditionally, the government is either a regulator or a customer for the private sector. While the government does have those relationships in cybersecurity, the government and private sector can have a third type of relationship in this area, that of partner or peer,” Mr. Daniel testified.

“This type of peer relationship is relatively new, and we do not have the necessary laws, policy, procedures, or even vocabulary to fully manage it, other than the overused ‘public-private partnership’ term,” he said.

“We need to fully develop the laws, policies, and procedures to govern this type of interaction, so that the relationships remain aligned with our overall sense of equity and appropriate roles for government versus the private sector,” he added. —Tom Leithauser,

FCC to Consider 911, Secure Network Items, Hear Reports at Feb. 17 Meeting

The FCC plans at its Feb. 17 meeting to vote on items addressing 911 fee diversion and network security and to get staff presentations on efforts to implement three initiatives funded by the recent omnibus appropriations and COVID-19 relief package (TR Daily, Jan. 27).

The FCC plans to consider a notice of proposed rulemaking in PS dockets 20-291 and 09-14 implementing section 902 of the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act of 2020. Among other things, the legislation requires the Commission to take steps to address states’ diversion of 911 fees for other purposes.

Also on tap is a third further NPRM in WC docket 18-89 proposing to modify FCC rules in response to changes made in the omnibus appropriations legislation to the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act.

The three initiatives on which staff will deliver reports are the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program for low-income Americans and those affected economically by the pandemic, which was created by Congress in the recent legislative package; the COVID-19 Telehealth Program created last spring for which Congress appropriated an additional $249.5 million in the recent legislation; and the collection of information aimed at creating more accurate and granular broadband data maps, as mandated by the Broadband DATA Act, for which Congress appropriated $65 million in the recent legislation. 

The meeting is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. —Paul Kirby,