Several Organizations Support FirstNet Spectrum Renewal, NSA Expresses Concerns
Friday, September 23, 2022 | Comments
Multiple industry organizations submitted filings supporting the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet Authority) application for renewal of its license for the 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum. The National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) also filed comments expressing some concerns about the FirstNet Authority and industry partner AT&T.

The legislation that created the FirstNet Authority required the FCC to give the authority a 10-year license for the spectrum. The act then directed the FirstNet Authority to submit a license renewal application when the license expired and gave the FCC the authority to grant the authority another 10-year license.

The FirstNet Authority submitted its application for the renewal in August.

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP), the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International all submitted letters supporting the approval of the renewal.

“Renewal of the Band 14 license is necessary for the continued operation of the FirstNet network, which provides critical wireless communications services, features and tools to public-safety responders across the country to assist with their life-saving missions,” the NEMA filing said.

APCO argued that FirstNet has and continues to meet the obligations laid out in the legislation and should therefore receive the renewal.

“As FirstNet’s renewal application describes, the nationwide public-safety broadband network is operational, serving more than 99% of the U.S. population with the largest coverage footprint,” APCO’s filing said. “… Simply put, FirstNet has clearly demonstrated that the commission should renew its license for an additional term. We look forward to FirstNet’s continued progress as it fulfills its mission to provide a dedicated nationwide public-safety broadband network.”

While most of the filings were positive, the NSA said it wanted to raise three issues to the FCC’s attention. First, it said that there should be more transparency when it comes to the FirstNet Authority’s contract with AT&T.

“While FirstNet was created with a mandate to serve public safety, it has not provided public-safety users and the broader public with a clear understanding of its contractual relationship with AT&T, raising questions about where AT&T commercial interests end and FirstNet’s responsibilities begin,” the NSA’s filing said. “As a result, we’ve ended up with a FirstNet that resembles more of a black box than a public good. The contract between AT&T and FirstNet should not remain an enigma that simply breeds more questions than answers.”

Second, the NSA expressed concern that the FirstNet network is not entirely dedicated to public safety.

“Congress established FirstNet to provide a nationwide broadband network for public-safety communications, but FirstNet/AT&T has instead implemented a commercial solution for public-safety and non-public-safety entities,” the filing said. “Indeed, FirstNet/AT&T has expanded the definition of ‘public safety entity’ to include transit agencies, tow truck companies, school districts, airports, television news media outlets, landscaping companies and utility workers. This runs against the intended mission and values of FirstNet and what Congress championed in the wake of tacks on September 11.

Finally, the NSA said it would like to see a renewed commitment to interoperable public-safety communications.

“Congress overarching goal in creating this network was to ensure interoperable communications for all of the nation’s first responders; however, AT&T and FirstNet have refused to support full interoperability with other networks serving public safety,” the filing said. “This refusal places the safety of public-safety personnel and the broader public at risk.”

The NSA concluded by saying that the review of the license renewal application should include a review of FirstNet Authority and AT&T contract.

Replies to these initial filings are due October 3 and another round of replies to those responses are due October 11.



 
 
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Comments
On 9/28/22, Mark Bergman said:
Sounds like the NSA has some valid concerns about who gets access to FirstNet. transit agencies tow truck companies school districts airports television news media outlets landscaping companies and utility workers. Landscaping companies media Transit and utility already operate on robust private systems. Of course they are important in a massive emergency but let their dispatchers interconnect. There is no need for them to use Band 14.


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