By Kristi Wilde, FirstNet Outreach Coordinator
Last week the FirstNet User Advocacy Team held the second quarterly webinar for our state and territory Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) in 2015. We anticipated broad stakeholder interest in our follow-up content from the recent Board meeting, so the webinar was expanded to include Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) members and the PSAC Tribal Working Group (TWG). We were very pleased with the turnout, with participants from at least 40 states and territories, a dozen PSAC members, and five members of the PSAC TWG.
Amanda Hilliard, FirstNet’s Director of Outreach, provided participants with an update on the strategic roadmap and highlighted data collection categories. Amanda also updated participants on progress with our User Advocacy hiring – announcements for Supervisory Emergency Management Specialists in regions 1, 3, 6, 7 & 8 were posted this week to USA Jobs. We encourage all interested qualified candidates to apply as the individuals who fill these positions will play an important role in FirstNet consultation and outreach in their respective regions.
Additionally, Amanda highlighted the work of the PSAC Early Builder and Tribal Working Groups and new PSAC assignments on Priority and Pre-emption, Public Safety Grade recommendations, and User Equipment.
Amanda called attention to our new FirstNet.gov webpages that include the new Speakers Request Form, the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statements, and an updated discussion on Mission Critical Voice & Land Mobile Radio (LMR).
She also reviewed the current draft agenda for the upcoming 2015 SPOC meeting in Reston; to date, 53 states and territories, and seven members of the TWG will be attending. The two day meeting includes two sessions to further our goal of discussing effective engagement and consultation with the tribes, in addition to several other topics.
Eli Veenendaal, our Legal Advisor on our public notice processes, delved into additional detail about the initial findings and intent of the second notice published on February 13th, for which the deadline to submit comments was extended to April 28th to provide all stakeholders with additional time to provide their valuable input. Questions from webinar participants included both the extent and content of the dialogue between FirstNet and individual states as they are working to make a decision about the radio access network (RAN). Eli emphasized that FirstNet’s goal is for a ‘win-win’ situation with the states through ongoing consultation discussions, recognizing that FirstNet has a very important responsibility to build a network that includes significant rural milestones. Notably, Eli emphasized that interoperability and cost effectiveness must be considerations for whatever entity is responsible for assuming RAN operations.
Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet’s Acting Chief Technology Officer, joined us from Boulder, Colorado with an update on the activities of the technical team, which continues to grow and provide FirstNet with tremendous expertise necessary for the nationwide public safety broadband network to succeed. The team recently filled four director level positions covering network operations, labs, applications, and devices, and added 11 technical contractors focusing on the RFP. The team will continue to grow this year, with plans to hire several important positions including a Senior Security Architect, and 17 engineering positions. Jeff also discussed the three key technical areas in which FirstNet is receiving support from the Public Safety Communications Research Labs:
- Band 14 long term evolution testing and evaluation
- Modeling and simulation
- Standards development
It was fascinating to see the results to date of the priority and pre-emption testing, which is a key feature that will be available in the NPSBN and sets FirstNet apart from commercial networks. He talked about the 18-24 month time frame for hardware to roll out after particular standards are set, and he shared how these same standards are being considered worldwide for public safety. The focus is on proximity services, group communications, and mission critical push to talk (PTT).
I want to thank everyone that was able to join in on the webinar – we look forward to seeing many of you in less than two weeks in Reston. There is still much work to do in the planning and implementation of the NPSBN and we need all of your input.
I always say that I have the best job ever. We are in this together with a goal of making first responders, and the communities they serve, safer and more efficient.