FirstNet’s Kennedy Provides Update on State Plans, User Base
Monday, October 03, 2016 | Comments

As the industry awaits an award of the potential $100 billion First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) request for proposals (RFP), FirstNet President TJ Kennedy said there’s a lot happening outside of the contract award this fall. Kennedy made the remarks during a National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) meeting Sept. 28.

As FirstNet moves forward in 2017, the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have hit milestones to ensure information is provided in a clear manner for states’ opt-in or opt-out decisions about FirstNet. Numerous comments were submitted to the NTIA notice and request for comments about the State Alternative Plan Program (SAPP). The FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on the state opt-out process has an Oct. 21 deadline for comments.

In addition, 700 MHz narrowband spectrum relocation has been seamless and on schedule with open communication, Kennedy said.

“Also going forward, getting into state plans, the critical element and what’s coming for the draft of the state plans is to get final work on network policies done,” Kennedy said. “NPSTC is giving lots of guidance. Technical teams are working closely with standards bodies, allowing operable and eventually interoperable networks for the entire 60,000 [U.S. public-safety agencies] to utilize.”

As for governance meetings, single points of contact (SPOCs) for states have been involved in numerous events on local and state levels. FirstNet is meeting with key decision-makers so there are no surprises in the state plans, Kennedy said.

FirstNet will attempt synchronized delivery of draft and final state plans to make sure states have the ability to share information among themselves, so everyone has the same information. It’s important to give states a decision, but local agencies will ultimately decide whether to adopt the service, Kennedy said.

“For them the real question, or true question, is whether to buy service at the agency level,” he said. “It’s a straightforward process and about local control. It’s a local agency decision and we’ve made sure in the RFP that this includes everyone.”

The governor’s decision timeline begins with the governor’s state plan review. If a state decides to implement an alternative radio access network (RAN), it has 180 days to conduct an RFP process and develop an opt-out plan. An FCC review period, an NTIA RAN construction funding grant, NTIA spectrum lease application and FirstNet spectrum lease negotiation all would follow, ending with the state alternative RAN implementation. FirstNet’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 priorities include mobilization of the award, states’ drafts and final plans, opt-in or opt-out decisions, public-safety adoption preparation on local and state levels, and network execution through task orders. By FY 2018, FirstNet will be focused on innovation, customer service and operations.

While continuing the evaluation phase of the procurement with anticipation of a contract award in November, phase four of FirstNet’s strategic roadmap will involve deploying a network, a key milestone for public safety, he said.

“We really want to try and get the markets up as soon as possible,” Kennedy said. “We all know this Long Term Evolution (LTE) network will be able to be deployed quickly.

“There’s definitely an increase in data and video usage,” he said. “We need to have priority pre-emption, as lots of incidents have occurred in the last several months, and we need to be able to share that video information. It’s absolutely important.”

Kennedy also said the EMS community holds the real front-row position in public safety for FirstNet. Because of EMS’ makeup and volunteer base, FirstNet will give EMS groups the option to do their own thing. “EMS is most likely to be the largest consumer of FirstNet,” he said.

As FirstNet evolves, the organization needs help communicating information to end users and those who are going to use FirstNet, Kennedy said.

“You’re all experts, have been dealing with it for years and helped fight for it, but now we need to get into the education of millions of first responders,” he said. “It’s a fun time to move into operations. This is the stuff we like.”

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