FirstNet Comes Home: The Major City (Police) Chiefs Association Annual Meeting

June 27, 2017
FirstNet President TJ Kennedy addresses the MCCA at its annual meeting on May 31, 2017
FirstNet President TJ Kennedy addresses the MCCA at its annual meeting on May 31, 2017

by Bill Schrier, Senior Advisor, FirstNet

Recently, First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) President TJ Kennedy and AT&T Senior Vice President-FirstNet Chris Sambar presented on the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network to the Major City (Police) Chiefs Association (MCCA) at their annual meeting in Las Vegas.  The meeting was convened by Montgomery County (Maryland) Police Chief and MCCA President Tom Manger, who was also present during the announcement of the agreement between FirstNet and AT&T on March 30 in Washington, D.C.

This meeting was, truly, a “coming home” for FirstNet. 

The concept of allocating wireless spectrum for the use of public safety entities dates back to 1997, and the idea of the network gained momentum with Morgan O’Brien’s keynote at IWCE in 2006.  However, the idea really took off at an MCCA meeting in 2008, chaired by then Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske.   An FCC auction, seeking a private company to build the nationwide public safety broadband network, was not able to find a successful bidder.  MCCA members discussed the auction and decided to forcefully push for additional spectrum – the allocation of the “D” block.  The MCCA formed a group to start this advocacy.

Over the next several years, a small group of public safety leaders pushed this advocacy forward with Congress and the FCC, including Chief Chris Moore of San Jose, Deputy Chief Chuck Dowd of New York City, Deputy Chief Bill Casey of Boston, Chief Harlin McEwen, Tualitin Valley Fire Chief Jeff Johnson, Maine Emergency Medical Director Kevin McGinnis.  They were supported by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and its Presidents Chris Fischer and Dick Mirgon, as well as a consortium of public safety associations and private companies called the Public Safety Alliance.

I was privileged to be a part of that group, as the representative of Chief Kerlikowske.  The group included a number of others, too numerous to name.

These combined efforts resulted in the February 22, 2012 law which created FirstNet, funded it with $7 billion of spectrum auction proceeds, and granted FirstNet an exclusive license to 700 MHz band spectrum, including the “D” Block.

On May 31st, FirstNet “came home” to the MCCA.  FirstNet President Kennedy and AT&T Senior Vice President Sambar described AT&T’s plan for FirstNet, which includes features and capabilities far beyond those envisioned in our first meetings in 2008.   These capabilities are expected to include:

  • Immediate priority for first responders who purchase services, after a Governor opts-in to the plan, on not just Band 14, but on all the AT&T LTE licensed spectrum nationwide ;
  • By the end of 2017, expecting pre-emption for primary users on all AT&T’s LTE spectrum, nationwide;
  • 72 deployable systems (“cell on wheels” and similar capabilities) dedicated to public safety, in addition to over 600 other deployables presently in the AT&T inventory; and
  • A 24x7x365 customer service center dedicated to FirstNet users.

More details are available in the State Plans, which FirstNet and AT&T distributed to states and territories earlier this month. This was another big step toward delivering the network that the public safety community fought for.

Who could have known that a single small idea, born in 1997, given a huge boost by the Major City Chiefs in 2008, and birthed in 2012, could have borne such a magnificent result?



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