By Chris Algiere, FirstNet Federal Outreach Branch Chief
Yesterday, FirstNet formally initiated the federal consultation process with a “kick-off” meeting in Washington, D.C., involving more than a dozen federal departments and agencies.
The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 directs FirstNet to consult with Federal, State, tribal, and local public safety entities on the development of the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN). FirstNet has held consultation meetings in 11 states and territories to date, with several more scheduled for 2015.
The federal kick-off meeting was an important next step in our consultation and planning for the network. The main objectives of the meeting were to enhance federal agencies’ understanding of FirstNet’s consultation process and to discuss future outreach and engagement between FirstNet and its federal partners.
In August of 2013, FirstNet and the federal Emergency Communications Preparedness Center (“ECPC”), administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland (“DHS”) Security Office of Emergency Communications, agreed to collaborate to ensure federal participation and coordination in the efforts surrounding the planning and deployment of the NPSBN. The ECPC established a FirstNet Consultation Focus Group, and each federal agency in the ECPC has designated a single point of contact to coordinate FirstNet engagements on its behalf.
Yesterday, DHS Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate and FirstNet Board member Suzanne Spaulding opened the meeting by discussing the unique opportunity that FirstNet is providing the public safety community, noting that “although we have a mandate to build the network, there is no requirement for you to subscribe” to it.
FirstNet Acting Executive Director TJ Kennedy followed by encouraging the federal agencies to be active in the effort so FirstNet can better understand their missions and wireless broadband needs. He also thanked the agencies for participating in the ECPC focus group activities that have paved the way for more in-depth consultation by FirstNet. In addition, Dave Buchanan, FirstNet Director of State Consultation, provided an overview of FirstNet’s consultation efforts in the states and territories. “Relationships we build with the states and you are instrumental in our success and fully implementing the network,” Dave said.
The principal result of the kickoff summit was the preparation of the federal agencies for the FirstNet consultation process. FirstNet will be delivering to the agency points of contact an initial consultation checklist that is similar to the one used by states and territories. Using the information gained from the checklist, FirstNet will schedule one-one-one meetings with the agencies in the coming months to begin discussing their needs and requirements for the network.
As FirstNet Director of State Plans Rich Reed told the attendees, this is not the conclusion, this is the start of the discussion.
I’m looking forward to the coming conversations.