FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson Delivers Keynote at the 2017 PSCR Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting

June 12, 2017
FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson delivers opening remarks at the 2017 PSCR Public Safety Broadband Meeting in San Antonio, TX
FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson delivers opening remarks at the 2017 PSCR Public Safety Broadband Meeting in San Antonio, TX

Remarks by Sue Swenson, FirstNet Chair
Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Program Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting, San Antonio, TX, June 12, 2017

—As prepared for delivery—

Good morning everyone - I am honored to be here today kicking off the Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting for 2017.

I appreciate Dereck Orr’s invitation to come back and deliver the opening remarks for the 4th year in a row. We’ve all come a long way since my 1st session in Westminster, CO in 2014. Thanks to a lot of folks in this room we’ve gone from laying out a strategic roadmap that took us through extensive outreach to all public safety stakeholders, issuing an RFP, conducting a thorough review of the proposals from the bidders, achieving a successful outcome from a protest, and finally awarding a contract to AT&T.

The Board vote on March 27th of this year was a momentous milestone for Public Safety. If you were all truthful I think it was a day that many in this room believed would never happen.

I think that sometimes time can obscure original intentions and memories can fade so I’d like to remind us all of the original intent of the 9/11 report and the legislation that created FirstNet. The 9/11 Commission made a critical public safety recommendation.  In it, the government sought to build-out, deploy, and operate a nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN).

Once deployed, the NPSBN would transform the nation’s emergency response system by consolidating public safety use of the radio spectrum, which enables emergency responders across the country to use devices that are compatible with one another. The NPSBN would enable the public safety community to transition away from a patchwork of antiquated, analog systems and into a modern, digital communication environment.

As you all know in February 2012, acting on the Commission’s recommendation and through the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 Congress created FirstNet.

And Congress set forth a comprehensive and elaborate set of requirements for FirstNet to carry out in establishing the NPSBN.  Most relevant here, with respect to building and deploying the network, FirstNet was to, among other things, “speed deployment of the network” and although Congress allocated $7B to FirstNet to fund the network build-out process Congress intended that FirstNet would ultimately become permanently self-funding. 

Those criteria made clear that minimizing the risk of non-performance was of tantamount importance to FirstNet and was a critical consideration in both the framework of the objectives based RFP and the subsequent evaluation of the bidders. Let me repeat that - minimizing the risk of non-performance was of tantamount importance to FirstNet.

I mention these areas of importance because one should never forget that FirstNet has a tremendous responsibility to safeguard the assets that Public Safety worked so hard for and was granted through the legislation.

We take that responsibility very seriously and understand that what we’re doing for Public Safety has to be done with a sense of urgency, be done extremely well and it has to be sustainable over a long period of time. This is not a situation where if the project doesn’t work for some reason it wouldn’t have much impact. Failure to perform would have the worst of all consequences - loss of life. I would bet that those in the Public Safety community may agree with that view.

At the end of the day, FirstNet’s selection of AT&T simply considered what solution best met the requirements of Congress, best met the evaluation criteria of the RFP and minimized risk to Public Safety for whom this network is being deployed.

And while it delayed the awarding of the contract by several months, I believe that it was actually quite helpful that we had to go through the protest process. The favorable outcome for FirstNet demonstrated the rigor with which FirstNet managed the acquisition process. It also gave FirstNet an opportunity to defend the fairness with which the process was conducted and that the claims made in the protest had absolutely no merit.

In the reissued and redacted order, issued by Judge Kaplan of the United States Court of Federal Claims on March 31st and available to the public, one can read for oneself the strengths and more importantly the weaknesses that might result in more than one type of risk to successful contract completion by Rivada Mercury, which is why they were not afforded the opportunity to continue in the RFP process.  As I said before, FirstNet’s role is to protect the assets of Public Safety.  We had to insure that we selected the right bidder who could meet the demanding requirements outlined in the RFP both in the near as well as long term.

With AT&T we now have the opportunity to meet one of the key requirements of Congress which was rapid deployment of the network - in fact, post a State deciding to opt in they will have access to all of the AT&T existing LTE network with priority access until the end of 2017 with pre-emption coming at year end.

At last week’s meeting in Dallas FirstNet and AT&T were finally able to discuss the details of what’s planned for First Responders.  The solution set that AT&T is immediately bringing to Public Safety shows that AT&T has been and continues to be very focused on the unique needs of Public Safety.

Just as we’ve done over the past 3 years, the FirstNet team and the Board will have a strategic roadmap to insure that we meet the key milestones that AT&T signed up for as part of the contract.

We have demonstrated our ability to make commitments and keep them over the past several years and we intend to continue that pattern as we bring the NPSBN vision to life.

While the signing of the contract was a big milestone, in many ways, I see this is as just the beginning.  Now that the NPSBN is a reality and just around the corner, we now have to turn our sights to developing capabilities for Public Safety that we never before imagined would be possible.

I would like to challenge all of you to think differently about Public Safety.

What I mean by that is to think about Public Safety from a much more integrated perspective so that we enable the ecosystem of Public Safety to work more efficiently and effectively to improve the outcome.  I know that Dereck and the PSCR team started on that journey several years ago and I’m sure that thinking will continue here this week.  Clearly the PSCR Innovation Accelerator Grant Program will be an impetus for that and I’m looking forward to hearing more about the program during the conference this week.

Let me share some thoughts with you to better explain this idea.  

I’ll use “Analytics of Tomorrow” as an example.

As many of you know all too well, currently in large public events such as the Houston Stock Show and Rodeo or the Santa Fe Balloon Festival, lost child alerts or suspicious per- son alerts are very common.  The typical work flow is to send an image of the person of interest up to the ops center and text/share the photo with the responder via cell phone (best case), as well as provide a text/verbal description.

In addition to carrying out their job duties, that responder now has an added emergency to address - find the person of interest.

While it is certainly helpful to have an image on their phone, they now find themselves looking at their screen, then looking up - trying to match a person with the image or description.  Their focus becomes divided between their device and their environment.

Now just imagine the possibilities in the future, with the advanced analytics at the edge of the network.

In the future, when a call comes into a dispatch center or a picture is sent in over NG911, the FirstNet network could automatically distribute the photo to devices, as well as responders.  The network could then start searching for the person of interest using advanced distributed analytics – connecting to things like video enabled Internet of Things devices, as well as local surveillance Video streams in the area.

The network would bring together all of the things that are smartly connected and search for patterns like height, shirt color, facial likeness and identifying possible matches as well as the location automatically.

By using the network to search for and identify the person of interest who matches the description and photo in real time, it would highlight areas where the criteria are met for the responder. It would then send location information to the responder, as well as live video feeds of that location back to the operations center.

As the responder is en route, the operations center can pro- vide situational awareness information, so they aren’t just seeing what’s in front them – they’ll have situational awareness of what’s ahead without the need to be constantly focused on their device.

By making the network work for the responder, using analytics and location information, the responder can focus more outwardly – and rely on a device connected to the Network to search and identify.

With improved analytics and location based services, the network would partner with the responder –

Leading to

  • Increased field of vision and improved situational focus
  • Increased analytical capability
  • Reduced time to location

Resulting in:

  • Increased probability of finding person of interest and
  • Increased safety for the first responder

Those of you in the room today are at the forefront of making this type of capability a reality.  And with the certainty of AT&T as our partner we can work together to realize these types of capabilities for the first responder community.  It’s incredibly exciting to think about what might be possible in this new world.  Obviously interoperability and capacity were key drivers behind the need for FirstNet, but there is unlimited potential with this network – and it is critical that we work to stay ahead of the innovation curve.

In closing, I’d like to go back a couple of years to March 2015 when I appeared before Chairman Senator Thune’s Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to provide an update on FirstNet.     

I think it was some- where near the end of the hearing and Senator Fischer from Nebraska asked me about the probability of the network being operational by 2022.                                                 

As I sat there in 2015 and did the quick math of 2022 being 7 years in the future I hedged a little and commented on things that were not always in our control but then came to my senses and said if the network was not up and operational by 2022 we should all be shot.                    

I think you all remember that day and I know that all of you have lived in fear of that possibly happening…but since that time we’ve overcome lots of challenges and as you all know the NPSBN is now a reality and one that is close at hand.

There are a lot of people to thank for getting us to where we are today. 

I would be here for hours thanking all of you so please just accept my heartfelt thanks for your commitment to Public Safety and the NPSBN.  With the state plans being delivered sometime this month and states having the opportunity to opt-in fairly soon, I’m pleased to say that 2017 sounds a lot better than 2022 and even more pleased that no one needs to be shot.

Thanks for your time and attention this morning.  Have a great week.

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