Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, June 22, 2017

State Plans Being Delivered On June 19, 2017, as promised, FirstNet and AT&T delivered the state plans three months ahead of what was required in the FirstNet RFP. The delivery of these plans was via a secure web portal that will be home to the plans and only accessible by authorized personnel in each state. The rest of us can view some of what is occurring and suggested coverage maps by going to the public site FirstNet.com (.com, not .gov), a new site dedicated to FirstNet state plans.

FirstNet has already provided each of the State (single) Points of Contact (SPOCs) with the information they need for themselves and others they want to also have direct access to the state plan. The FirstNet.com site is designed to provide information for those with an interest in FirstNet, the state plans, coverage, products, and services. FirstNet.com also enables stakeholders not directly involved with the state plan to be able to learn more about what FirstNet and AT&T are offering the public safety community. Read the full version here . Today’s News from Discovery Patterns includes a number of different stories about the state plans as well as opt-out initiatives. I have included multiple stories to illustrate the differences between them and so our readers can get the best view of what is being reported. Continue reading

S&T Snapshot: Rapid DNA technology makes verifying relationships easier, faster

Rapid DNA technology developed by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has recently been used to identify simulated “victims” in several mass casualty exercises across the nation. The technology greatly expedites the testing of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the only biometric that can accurately verify family relationships. With results available in 90 minutes or less, S&T’s Rapid DNA technology can be used on the scene of mass fatality events, in refugee camps around the world, or at immigration offices.

“Rapid DNA dramatically reduces the time it takes to reunify families and mass-casualty victims. What took days to several weeks (due to delays caused by shipping DNA samples to regional laboratories for testing) can now be accomplished in hours, onsite,” explained Christopher Miles, S&T’s Deputy Director for Standards Integration and Application. Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, June 19, 2017

Spectrum Wars Intensify As engineers have discovered how to make spectrum in the higher reaches of our radio spectrum useful for purposes no one had thought possible, public safety, along with others who needed it, were assigned some of the spectrum, but by no means enough to satisfy the needs of everyone. Now it seems decisions to re-allocate spectrum are being made more and more by attorneys and other officials with no understanding or regard for the implications of their actions. When FirstNet was established by Congress in early 2012, the public safety community was forced to accept a give-back of the television spectrum then being used by both public safety and business radio users in eleven major cities and their suburbs.

Congress explained that in order to have spectrum for broadband, the public safety community would be required to give back some of its spectrum. However, as I a wrote in an earlier Advocate, this requirement will place a burden on the public safety and business communities now using that TV spectrum. It appeared as though Congress honestly believed what one vendor reportedly was telling it, and that is that push-to-talk over LTE is only a few years away, therefore it won’t be a problem to relocate these agencies to FirstNet by 2022. Read the entire article here Continue reading

Lawmakers, Witnesses Debate How to Give Investigators Cross Border Data Access

U.S. Justice Department and United Kingdom national security officials today urged House lawmakers to pass legislation to clear the way for U.S. law enforcement agencies to obtain data relevant to criminal investigations that is stored abroad, and for foreign government agencies to obtain data relevant to public safety needs that is stored in the U.S.

“To address the first issue, we recommend a simple legislative fix to make clear that [Stored Communications Act] warrants can be used to obtain data under a provider’s custody or control, even if it is stored abroad. To address the needs of foreign countries and providers facing a conflict of laws, we recommend a new bilateral data-sharing framework that would protect both American and foreign citizens’ privacy interests,” Richard Downing, acting deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said in his written testimony for today’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. Some lawmakers questioned whether agreements between countries should be left to law enforcement agencies, or whether they should be adopted through a formal treaty process.  Some committee members also suggested that the proposed legislation should have a provision requiring a congressional vote of approval or allowing for a congressional veto of intergovernmental agency agreements, but Mr. Downing said that such a provision could be found unconstitutional under existing court precedents. Continue reading

Supporting our Public Safety Heroes, June 1, 2017 – 2:00 pm, By Ajit Pai | FCC Chairman

You may never need them, but if you do, they’ll be there.

It’s that bedrock promise of protection that makes our public safety officials the unsung heroes that they are.  Whether it’s police officers, firefighters, first responders, or 911 dispatchers, many dedicated Americans work long hours, and often in difficult conditions, to make sure that when someone’s in need, they can help.

One of the reasons why Congress created the FCC—a reason it embedded in the very first section of the Communications Act of 1934—was “for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications.”  At our next public meeting on June 22, the FCC will aim to meet this charge by considering three ways to help law enforcement and first responders do their jobs.  We will recognize and support these often-unsung heroes during Public Safety Month at the Commission. Continue reading

FCC’s Connect2Health Task Force Updates Mapping Broadband Health in America

The Federal Communications Commission’s Connect2Health Task Force has announced updates to its platform (available at www.fcc.gov/health/maps).  The 2017 platform now reflects the latest complete annual fixed broadband dataset from the Commission and updated health data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings.  As telehealth, telemedicine, and other cutting-edge mHealth initiatives gain momentum across the country, this web-based mapping platform enables more efficient, data-driven decision making at the intersection of broadband and health.   “As a famous writer once said, ‘data are just summaries of thousands of stories,’” said Michele Ellison, Chair of the Connect2HealthFCC Task Force.  “This critical update to the Task Force’s mapping platform unpacks the broadband health realities faced by communities nationwide and makes them easily accessible to the public and decision-makers.”

For example, understanding the data is the first step in better leveraging broadband to help manage chronic health conditions for seniors in Giles County, Tennessee, access lifesaving specialty care in Harlan County, Kentucky, reduce post-surgical pain through Virtual Reality applications in Barbour County, West Virginia, or connect a veteran to virtual rehab in Warren County, Pennsylvania. That is why the mapping platform is an interactive experience, enabling detailed study of the intersection of connectivity and health for every state and county in the United States.  The data update reinforces many of last year’s key findings, including sizeable and persistent rural/urban gaps.  Notably, counties that need broadband for health the most, tend to have it the least.  Forty-two percent of rural “critical need” counties, representing over 2 million people, had worsening broadband and health metrics.

“We recognize that the upturn in closures of rural hospitals and medical facilities, highlighted in recent research at the University of North Carolina, is of great concern to many,” added Ms. Ellison. “The mapping platform shines a critical spotlight on the need for broadband health solutions in rural and digitally-isolated counties where physician shortages are more than double the national average.  It also demonstrates the importance of initiatives to promote broadband infrastructure deployment.”

Along with the data update, the Task Force has released new priority lists of “critical need” counties in broadband and health—the Priority 2017 and Rural Priority 2017.  The Task Force also introduced a new analytical product―the Positive Trend Counties inventory—that compares broadband and health data year on year (e.g., comparing broadband data from December 2014 to December 2015).  This new inventory identifies priority counties that the data shows have made progress on broadband and/or health measures to a greater or lesser extent, no longer meeting the thresholds as “critical need” counties in broadband and health.

Other key findings include:

  • The number of people living in “double burden” counties has increased. Almost half of U.S. counties have high burdens of chronic disease (e.g., diabetes) as well as a need for greater broadband connectivity.       That translates to over 36 million people who live in counties with a “double burden” of need—an increase of 1 million between 2014 and 2015.
  • Over 60% of rural Americans live in “double burden” counties, while less than 5% of urban America falls into the same category. The rural/urban gap holds true even if the benchmarks are set at 80%, 70%, or 60% broadband access.
  • There are 214 counties―175 of which are majority rural – that have broadband access below 50% and diabetes and obesity rates above the national average. These digitally-isolated counties are home to nearly 7 million people.
  • Preventable hospitalizations (i.e., hospital stays that could have been avoided with appropriate care) are 150% higher in the least connected counties compared to other counties.
  • Some counties did experience significant positive trends in broadband access, such as Upshur County, Texas, and Monroe County, Georgia, both reporting broadband access increases of 60% or more.

The fixed broadband data in the mapping update was released in December 2016 covering data submissions as of December 2015.  The health data is drawn from the 2017 release of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings & Roadmap. This map data update provided the Task Force with an opportunity to look at broadband and health data between years.

To review this year’s data products (the Priority 2017, Rural Priority 2017, Positive Trend Counties, Key Findings), our sample maps and a tutorial on how to use the platform, please visit www.fcc.gov/health/maps.

In the coming months, the Task Force will continue to focus on rural and underserved communities and will work to catalyze public-partnerships in these counties. Parties interested in these efforts may contact the Task Force at engagec2h@fcc.gov.

The Connect2HealthFCC Task Force also welcomes suggestions and feedback as it continues to enhance the mapping platform.  Comments or additional data concerning enhancements to the mapping platform can be submitted in response to the Public Notice on Broadband-Enabled Health Care Solutions and Technologies (GN Docket 16-46), available at https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-seeks-comment-accelerating-broadband-health-tech-availability.

To learn more about the Connect2HealthFCC Task Force, please visit www.fcc.gov/health.

FEMA Announces FY 2017 Preparedness Grants Notices of Funding Opportunities Due June 22

On June 2, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Preparedness Grants Notices of Funding Opportunities (NOFO). The NOFOs are available at: http://www.fema.gov/preparedness-non-disaster-grants.

There is a quick turn-around on grants this year—Applications are due on June 22, 2017.

 State Administrative Agencies (SAA) should following application submission instructions on Grants.gov. Note, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant NOFO has not yet been released and will be awarded on an ongoing basis throughout FY 2017. OEC prepares a summary of FY 2017 DHS Preparedness Grant Programs to assist in developing proposals that align with DHS funding priorities for emergency communications.

Stakeholders are strongly encouraged to read this summary and the SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants before submitting emergency communications proposals for funding. Please note that OEC is not the administrator for these grants. OEC prepared this summary as a courtesy to its stakeholders. Direct any questions on this summary to OEC at oec@hq.dhs.gov. Questions on FEMA grant programs can be directed to FEMA’s Centralized Scheduling and Information Desk by phone at (800) 368-6498 or by e-mail at askcsid@fema.gov, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST.