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. Continue reading