By Dave Buchanan, Director of State Consultation
The FirstNet user advocacy team got an opportunity to learn more about Montana’s unique communications needs and public safety capabilities this week as part of our fifth initial state consultation meeting. We were pleased to have more than 40 public safety representatives from all levels of government and disciplines join us in Helena. Participants included the state’s single point of contact, Warren L. Dupuis, who kicked off the meeting by highlighting the benefits that a public safety broadband network could bring to first responders in Montana.
“FirstNet stands to transform public safety communications as we know it today in the state of Montana,” Warren said in his opening remarks. “This excites to me to my core as someone who works in technology, and I look forward to making it a success because we need it."
Rich Reed, FirstNet's Director of State Plans, delivered an update on key FirstNet developments, including the public notice and the request for information. He explained how the comments and responses will be used to inform our acquisition strategy and, as the process evolves, future requests for proposals.
We spent a lot of time discussing how the state’s geography poses unique coverage challenges for the design and deployment of the network. Montana is the fourth largest state in terms of land-mass, but only 44th in terms of population. Further, the state has a large amount of wilderness that must be factored into network planning.
FirstNet's Brian Hobson offered updates on the technical aspects of FirstNet and its efforts to gather information on users and operational data. He also fielded questions from participants about how the state's vast wilderness areas might obtain coverage under FirstNet. "That's something we continue to look at," Brian said, noting that a number of options would be considered, including deployable and satellite solutions.
It was great to have Montana's Statewide Interoperability Coordinator, Quinn Ness, participate in the meeting. Quinn remarked that it was one the largest gatherings of people discussing public safety communications that he had ever seen in the state. “That FirstNet has been able to get all of us in the same room is testament to its determination to get this done," he said.
I’d like to thank Warren, Quinn, and the rest of the meeting attendees for participating in an open and informative dialogue. We look forward to continue working with Montana. In the meantime, the user advocacy team will be heading to Utah next week for our sixth initial consultation meeting on November 6th.