New Year, New Network, New FirstNet

January 2, 2018
With all 50 states, two U.S territories, and Washington, DC, opting-in, FirstNet will move full speed ahead to deploy the network nationwide
With all 50 states, two U.S territories, and Washington, DC, opting-in, FirstNet will move full speed ahead to deploy the network nationwide
By Mike Poth, First Responder Network Authority

Happy New Year. 

Indeed, it is a new beginning for public safety, as their vision of a nationwide, interoperable communications network is now reality.  It is also a new era for the First Responder Network Authority, as we start 2018 in deployment mode after years of consulting, planning, and designing the network.

With all 50 states, two U.S territories, and Washington, DC joining FirstNet, we now move full speed ahead to give public safety what they’ve fought for and needed for a long time: enhanced coverage for their voice and data communications, especially in rural areas; capacity to stream video and utilize other innovative broadband technologies; and specialized features and applications that are developed to meet their mission needs. 

FirstNet is also the first and only network offering priority and preemption, giving first responders their own “fast lane” connection to communicate and share information at all times.

We are grateful to have every state say “yes” to the FirstNet solution.  The scale of participation by the states and territories is significant for many reasons.  First, it accelerates the vision, deployment, and availability of FirstNet from coast to coast.  With more than fifty states and territories on board, millions of first responders now have instant access to an inherently interoperable network today. 

Also, having full, nationwide participation supports the more efficient and coordinated expansion of the network – including the buildout of Band 14 spectrum – across the country.  It ensures that we will have an enduring, self-sufficient network for public safety for years to come.

The support from the states was not something that came together just over the last couple of months.  It was the product of years of working together with their public safety communities.  The need to engage the future users of the network was evident on Day 1, and we made it a priority to involve law enforcement, EMS, and fire personnel every step of the way in the development of their network.

Our consultation teams traveled from state to state, agency to agency answering questions about the how and why of FirstNet and – more importantly – asking public safety what they needed and wanted from FirstNet to improve communications for their daily operations and during emergencies.  Our advocacy continued throughout the State Plans process; we took what they told us and translated that feedback into customized plans that met or exceeded their expectations.  This ultimately led to the positive response to the plans and 53 opt-ins to the FirstNet solution.

It is also what makes FirstNet unique – we are a stakeholder driven organization.  We are never satisfied or complacent in our job because public safety deserves nothing but the best network.  As we shift gears to focus on this next phase of FirstNet, our organization will continue to evolve so it is ready to take on the next set of challenges and opportunities.

"Our vision for FirstNet is that it provides much more than a network connection; we will make it the premier technology platform for public safety."

-Mike Poth

More than a Network

Looking to the future, our vision for FirstNet is that it provides much more than a network connection; we will make it the premier technology platform for public safety.  FirstNet will not only solve today’s communications challenges, but it will create a new, public safety-focused marketplace that offers innovative, life-saving technologies that will help first responders do their jobs safely and more effectively, as well as connect them to the Internet of Things and smart cities infrastructure, as needed.

We already have begun moving forward to realize this vision.  We recently launched the first-ever applications ecosystem designed specifically for public safety, built on open and common standards.  We have also built a dedicated innovation and testing lab just for them, where devices, applications, and advanced network features are being tested to ensure they will deliver when public safety needs them to.  And in the first part of this year, we will launch the first core that is dedicated to public safety communications traffic, making sure that it is secure and encrypted from end-to-end on the network. 

One aspect of our mission that we won’t change is our vigorous public safety advocacy: first responders will continue to have a role in the growth and evolution of their network. We will seek public safety’s feedback on FirstNet products and services and ask them for ideas on how to best deliver public-safety focused innovation.

I am excited to usher in this new phase of FirstNet and am profoundly grateful to the many people, organizations, and agencies who helped and supported the effort.  Our Board and staff are without parallel, and they, together with the 56 state single points of contact (SPOCs) and the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), were instrumental in the success of this process.

I would also like to thank the federal agencies who supported our mission; the tribal nations that contributed to our fuller understanding of Indian Country and their public safety needs; the government and public safety associations that were such an important part of our consultation and outreach work; and our partner, AT&T, who has made a tremendous investment in the success of the network and is committed to meeting the needs of public safety across the country.

My most heartfelt thanks, of course, goes out to all the first responders from Maine to Hawaii and points in between without whom we could not have made it this far.  We are building out FirstNet with you, so that it works for you today and far into the future.

On to 2018 and all the progress it will bring.  

Thanks –
Mike

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