By Jeff Johnson, FirstNet Board Vice Chairman
Recently, I had the honor of being appointed Vice Chair of the FirstNet Board by Chairwoman Sue Swenson. I thank Sue for this opportunity and pledge my ongoing commitment to the public safety community as we work together to ensure the build-out and operation of the first-ever nationwide broadband network for firefighters, law enforcement personnel, medical service providers, and other emergency response personnel.
In passing the legislation to create FirstNet, Congress recognized the need for a blend of industry executives and public safety professionals on the Board to execute the FirstNet mission. Having all of the major public safety disciplines represented on the Board, for example, will help us design a network that meets their mission-critical needs and creates a safer and more effective and efficient operating environment for first responders. Our private sector members collectively bring decades of technology and telecommunications expertise to the Board; they know what it takes to develop, build, and manage cutting-edge networks and IT systems, as well as the software and applications that can run over those platforms.
In my role as Vice Chair, I will work closely with all of my fellow Board members to ensure that FirstNet is engaged with the necessary parties and stakeholders in the development of the network. I also look forward to supporting the Chair to develop and refine our organization’s vision and the strategies to help us achieve that vision. Further, in addition to assuming more of these “big picture” type responsibilities, I will also continue to chair the FirstNet Outreach Committee.
Speaking of outreach, this past week I had the opportunity to meet with a number of key public safety partners and association boards of directors about where FirstNet is in the planning for the network and our key next steps. This includes meetings with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) board of directors and with the Oklahoma single point of contact (SPOC) and statewide interoperability coordinator (SWIC) in Oklahoma City. Also, in Washington, DC, I was joined by Board member Richard Stanek at the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) conference and by Board members Stanek and Chris Burbank at the Major County Sheriffs’ Association/Major Cities Chiefs Association joint conference.
One of the key takeaways from my discussions with stakeholders at these and other meetings is the need for public safety to understand that the network will initially provide them with access to high-speed data and video services. In other words, when it is launched, the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) will not replace first responders’ Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems for mission critical voice. In fact, the continued use of LMR is one of many key considerations in our outreach, planning, and consultation efforts going forward.
In all, FirstNet is far more than just a network. We are consulting with Federal, state, territorial, and local entities to help plan and build the network. We will conduct an open and competitive request for proposal process to facilitate the deployment of the network. And once the network is up and running, FirstNet will then offer broadband services to first responders throughout the nation.
As the legislation to create FirstNet nears its third anniversary, I would like to commend the public safety community for their unity in advocating for a nationwide, interoperable public safety network and for their ongoing collaboration with FirstNet in the planning and development of it. Their dedication and desire for achieving this network will always be an inspiration. As the Vice Chair of FirstNet, I am honored to be involved in such an important undertaking that will benefit the safety and security of our nation for years to come.