By Amanda Hilliard, FirstNet Outreach Director
The FirstNet user advocacy team followed up Wednesday’s Board meeting with a number of updates to the public safety community on key actions taken by the Board, as well as next steps in the state plan consultation process. Our outreach activities this week included a conference call with the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and the states’ single points of contact (SPOCs), and meetings with the PSAC Executive Committee.
In addition, yesterday we hosted more than 25 representatives from the major public safety and state/local/tribal associations at our Reston headquarters to have a dialogue with them about recent FirstNet developments, including the Request for Information (RFI) and Public Notice that the Board approved the day before.
During my presentation to the associations, I explained how FirstNet is looking forward to their feedback on those items and encouraged them to participate in both comment processes. I also reviewed our plans for staffing up the FirstNet regional teams and hiring public safety subject matter experts to support our state outreach efforts and work with FirstNet’s technical team.
Dave Buchanan, FirstNet Director of State Consultation, updated the association representatives on the state consultation process, including the consultation meeting scheduled for next week in Minnesota. He explained how the process is designed to be inclusive of all public safety disciplines and will result in the development of a plan for building the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) in each state and territory.
Also on Thursday, representatives from the PSAC, the state of Maryland, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) briefed the associations on their FirstNet-related programs and activities. Harlin McEwen, PSAC Chairman, discussed areas of coordination between FirstNet and the PSAC. Mike Dame, who is the NTIA State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) Program Director, provided an update on the grant program, which is supporting state and territory planning and outreach for the NPSBN.
Later, representatives from the state of Maryland shared best practices with the associations for conducting outreach and awareness to public safety on the NPSBN. Maryland State Broadband Coordinator Lori Stone highlighted the state’s efforts to coordinate with first responders across all disciplines through social media and its website, as well as the importance of participating in meetings, workshops, and conferences throughout the state.
Additionally, Kristi Wilde from the FirstNet outreach team participated in two events this week: the WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband Fall Conference in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on Wednesday, and the statewide Indiana FirstNet Conference in Indianapolis on Thursday. Bill Schrier, Washington SPOC, was on hand at the event in Indianapolis to deliver a key note address on the future of data capabilities, applications, and social media that brought laughs, provoked thought, and likely provided motivation for those present to invest time in the National Public Safety Broadband planning process. Both conferences were timely opportunities to discuss FirstNet’s progress and next steps following the Board meetings. More than 350 participants combined attended the two events.
The rural broadband providers expressed interest in partnership opportunities to deploy the NPSBN and submitting comments on the Public Notice. The diverse group of stakeholders in Indiana were also well informed and engaged. The Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety, John Hill, who also served with Indiana State Police and as the head of the state’s Department of Homeland Security, spoke to the group about the FirstNet planning process in Indiana and offered important considerations for the consultation process. Indiana CIO Paul Baltzell shared the outcomes of the broadband expansion project that began in the state in 2009 and talked about the potential relationships between that project and FirstNet. Dave Vice, Indiana SPOC, talked about how his Integrated Public Safety Commission team is balancing an upgrade of their statewide LMR system and increasing connectivity to their statewide CAD, in addition to preparing for consultation with FirstNet.
I would like to thank the SPOCs, the PSAC and its Executive Committee, and the public safety and state/local/tribal associations for participating in our outreach activities this week. I would also like to thank Lori, Maryland SPOC Ray Lehr, Harlin, and Mike for joining us at the association meeting, and WTA and the state of Indiana for providing FirstNet with opportunities to present at their public safety conferences.