FirstNet Approves Program Roadmap
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 | Comments

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board of directors approved a program roadmap rather than a business plan at a meeting March 11. The roadmap includes several milestones for FirstNet to achieve in the coming year, including releasing several requests for proposals (RFPs).

FirstNet Chairman Sam Ginn said a roadmap is more appropriate than a business plan at this time, because there are fundamental questions, such as how many sites the network will require, that can’t yet be answered but that are required to develop a business plan.

“As we work through the questions, we will narrow this until we can truly present a business plan,” Ginn said.

The roadmap includes several milestones to be completed in the coming year including initiating public notice and comment on certain procedures. FirstNet will release procurement process plans and proposal requirements for requests for proposals (RFPs) for a comprehensive network and network equipment and services. The staff will also deliver proposal requirements for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) resources and spectrum relocation. The staff also expects to begin formal state consultations. The first state meetings originally were planned for this quarter.

“We have evaluated a number of models, both financial and network assumptions and solutions, to try to determine our path to sustainability,” said FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino. “We have multiple paths to sustainability. We will further analyze and identify our feature sets. We’ve spent a significant focus in the last 90 days in defining this roadmap. … We will continue to engage public safety for their input and interaction. Our next level of outreach begins soon.”

D’Agostino said the staff has further defined the approach to RFPs, and it hopes to have 56 state plans that have input from the states included, with all public-safety agencies having an opportunity to provide input into the plans. “We are looking forward to getting into the building of FirstNet,” he said. “I believe we have put together a very solid and collaborative roadmap for our future.”

In addition to the roadmap, the board approved a report from the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) on the human factors that affect a public-safety broadband network. PSAC Chairman Harlin McEwen said the committee analyzed what human elements, such as providing selective polling of information to officers rather than pushing information, need to be considered. “Constant pings could distract officers,” McEwen said.

The report defined human elements as users, operators and maintainers of the network, along with device design elements and many other human-specific factors.

McEwen said it’s best not to have one large database of information but to work out ways to access the many smaller databases available among agencies, consortia and states. “These databases are owned by thousands of agencies,” he said. “We’ve developed ways through the states to access those database. It’s still patchy but we need to take advantage of that.”

In addition, the board passed a resolution to allow FirstNet to continue negotiations with Harris County, Texas, for a 700 MHz broadband spectrum lease. The new deadline for negotiations is July 23. The five-month extension follows a special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC for the state of Texas for Harris County’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) public-safety network last month.

D’Agostino provided an update on FirstNet’s personnel ramp-up. FirstNet now has 40 employees on its payroll, employment offers extended to 15 more people and 36 additional positions in the human resources process. A chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO) should be onboard soon, he said.

“The organization is filling out,” D’Agostino said.

The group plans to move into its Reston, Va., office space by August, and its Boulder, Colo., space will be occupied soon, D’Agostino said.

Deputy General Manager TJ Kennedy said FirstNet staff has been communicating with the state point of contacts through phone calls and webinars. Regional State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) workshops are scheduled, with the first one in Atlanta last week and one in Phoenix this week.

The FirstNet board meeting was held at New York Police Department (NYPD) headquarters at 1 Police Plaza. New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton addressed the board and outlined NYPD’s many data and information initiatives and how important the FirstNet network is to the department’s work.

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