June 21, 2016 — Since its inception, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has been focused on a single outcome — the successful deployment of a nationwide public safety broadband network for use by public safety personnel.
During emergencies, nothing is more important than delivering the right help to those who need it most as soon as possible. This includes man-made catastrophes such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, natural disasters caused by extreme weather such as Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, or daily incidents and emergencies.
Communications and information-sharing are critical to saving lives. Many times, law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics who risk their lives for others every day do so without the situational awareness that today’s advanced technology could provide them.
That’s where FirstNet comes in. Imagine if all officers could receive a photo of a person of interest rather than a verbal description, or if all ambulances could instantly provide real-time traffic data to the emergency medical technician with the fastest route to the hospital, while at the same time transmitting real-time medical information from the patient to a waiting doctor. The ability to transmit high-speed data, location information, images or video could make a life-saving difference for first responders and the people they serve.
FirstNet is working with states, territories, native American Indian tribes and first responders to ensure the establishment of a reliable, interoperable communications system for public safety. We’ve taken significant steps toward this goal, which would bring more innovative tools to public safety, but a tremendous amount of work still remains.
In December 2015, FirstNet announced its consultation approach for 2016. We moved quickly on this plan, meeting with 55 of the states’ designated single points of contact within the first five months of the year. We are also working with the states and territories to establish consultation task teams to help address key network policies such as local control, and we are meeting with key executives from each state and territory.
In January 2016, FirstNet took a major step toward the deployment of the network by releasing a request for proposal (RFP) to create a first of its kind nationwide public-private partnership. The objectives-based RFP resulted from years of stakeholder engagement with public safety officials, state governments and industry representatives.
Last year alone, FirstNet conducted an outreach to tens of thousands of public safety and private partners through more than 300 stakeholder events. We completed 55 state and territory initial consultations and collected detailed data from over 11,600 public safety entities representing 1.6 million personnel. Meeting with stakeholders and receiving actionable data from them allowed us to listen and learn about what they need most from the FirstNet network.
The RFP marked a major milestone for FirstNet, but there is still much work to be done. During the next several months, FirstNet will continue outreach with public safety and prepare for the delivery of state plans for radio access network deployment as early as mid-2017. FirstNet will also be assisting public safety incumbents through our spectrum relocation grant program, further developing network policies, and positioning our organization for the network partnership.
FirstNet has set the stage for a successful network by moving forward with urgency and listening to public safety. We are now much closer to having a nationwide public safety broadband network. It’s an ambitious goal, but an honorable challenge – FirstNet will strive to provide the best communications system possible to the men and women who respond to calls for help each day.
TJ Kennedy is president of the First Responder Network Authority.
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