By Jeff Johnson, FirstNet Board Vice Chair
As we look back on the past year, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is pleased by the many accomplishments we achieved in 2016. We’ve taken many important steps forward in our efforts to deploy a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) and put life-saving technology into the hands of first responders. And we look forward to the work we’ve put in over the last 12 months paying dividends in 2017, as we move into implementation mode with the network.
As the chair of FirstNet’s Consultation and Outreach Committee, I’m proud of the ambitious agenda we set for the year, which included:
- expanding outreach to involve more local-level first responders
- collecting actionable information and feedback from federal, state, and tribal agencies
- preparing decision-makers for State Plan delivery in 2017
Since the beginning of 2016, we’ve connected with more than 40,000 stakeholders through our outreach activities, including Fire-Rescue International 2016 as well as many IAFC section conferences. One of the key takeaways has been an increase in public safety’s awareness, understanding and preparation for FirstNet. We’ve seen the types of questions and topics evolve from basic questions, from “What is FirstNet?” to questions about network operations and availability, such as
- When will FirstNet be in my town?
- How will FirstNet provide coverage in the rural parts of my state?
- How much will it cost?
- What types of devices and apps will I be able to use?
It’s reassuring to see so many state and local public-safety officials engaged in the process. Their input is invaluable as we move from planning to implementation and further defining the answers to these questions.
The Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC)—composed of representatives from public safety and state, territory, local and tribal organizations—continues to provide us with expert advice on key network issues. IAFC Communications Committee Chair Chief Gary McCarraher is a member of the PSAC.
Additionally, I am grateful for the leadership and cooperation from the state and territory single points of contact (SPOCs) as we’ve worked together to bring FirstNet activities to the states and territories to help us achieve our goals of preparing those officials and users and capturing critical information from stakeholders. The SPOCs have helped us implement a multidimensional approach to consultation in 2016 that has brought us to more than 45 states and territories, dozens of large metropolitan areas, all 10 FirstNet regions and numerous state capitals.
These meetings have been incredibly helpful in bringing the FirstNet dialog to the executive and agency levels, so FirstNet can better understand and capture a state’s unique needs for the network.
Because of the feedback, data and information we have from our outreach, we remain confident that the FirstNet State Plan for each state and territory will deliver an excellent value proposition that best reflects public safety’s needs.
Between now and delivery of the State Plans, our Consultation and State Plans teams will continue to work with the states and territories to address their needs and questions related to the draft and final State Plan processes. We look forward to continuing our work with the states and territories to ensure each one is prepared for the governor’s decision.
This new year stands to be a critical one for FirstNet, and we’re encouraged by the progress and partnerships we’ve seen at all levels of government to prepare for full network deployment, which we expect to begin as soon as 2018.
FirstNet commends the IAFC for taking a leadership role by recognizing the importance of FirstNet and endorsing it publicly in passing a position statement in full support. This was a significant move to highlight the association’s continued support of FirstNet as well as the network’s importance to the men and women of America’s fire and emergency service. They deserve to have the 21st-century tools they need to protect themselves and our communities. We appreciate the IAFC’s continued support as we work to swiftly deliver this network to public safety.