Colorado Backtracks on FCC Filing Requesting FirstNet Interoperability Guidelines
Monday, July 16, 2018 | Comments
The Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), Broadband Office, backtracked on a request earlier this month for the FCC to clarify the guidelines for commercial network interoperability for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).

The latest letter to FCC Secretary Marlene H. Dortch, filed July 13 and posted July 16, said Colorado acknowledges the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) interoperability concerns raised by the Colorado Public Safety Broadband Governing Body (CPSBGB) in its July 6 filing. “However, on behalf of the CPSBGB, we request that the commission not take any further action on this matter at this time,” said the letter from Brian Shepherd, chief operating officer (COO) of the Colorado Broadband Office.

“Consistent with Colorado’s decision to opt-in to the NPSBN on Dec. 18, 2017, the Broadband Office will work collaboratively with the CPSBGB and FirstNet to resolve the concerns raised regarding interoperability and ensure the Colorado first responder community has access to a state-of-the-art communications system,” said the letter. “We remain committed to support the mission set forth by FirstNet to deploy, operate, maintain, and improve the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety.”

The original CPSBGB filing requested that the FCC clarify that ensuring interoperability is a fundamental responsibility of FirstNet and that interoperability is supported at all levels including network, services, applications and devices. The CPSBGB requested that the commission establish rules for all roaming arrangements to ensure interoperability. The board also said the FCC should open a rulemaking docket to address roaming and prioritization as it applies to applications such as push to talk (PTT) and mission-critical PTT (MCPTT), as well as to other applications.

Carl Stephens, a member of the CPSBGB who represents the 9-1-1 community, said July 13 that a potential request to rescind the original filing did not have feedback from members of the body, comprised of 15 public-safety professionals from around Colorado, along with Shepherd.

"I was just told that [the governor's] office is requesting it be rescinded," said Stephens July 13. "This is without any feedback to the Colorado Public Safety Broadband Governing Body. I find this disheartening. During the opt-in/opt-out decision, the governor seemed to value feedback from the Colorado FirstNet Governing Body, but since now we are the Colorado Public Safety Broadband Governing Body, it appears that our opinion and the opinion of public safety is no longer valued."

Stephens is the executive director at the Garfield Emergency Communications Authority in Rifle, Colorado.

“It was filed because we believe interoperability is very important for public safety, not just that apps are interoperable between systems but different systems are interoperable," Stephens said. “While I believe strongly in FirstNet and am hopeful for its future, right now I believe it does not fit many agencies’ needs. Each agency has different needs but one of the common concerns I hear is that lack of coverage requires these agencies to use other providers, and we need all these providers to work together to create an interoperable system. That’s why I support the governing board's filling.”

The former Colorado FirstNet Governing Body is now the CPSBGB, so the group can champion all forms of broadband in the state, not just FirstNet and wireless, Stephens said.

CPSBGB member Joe Ribeiro, chief of police for the Manitou Springs Police Department, declined to comment.

"CPSBGB members received the July 13 letter sent to the FCC, and they will be engaged as the Broadband Office collaborates with FirstNet to resolve the concerns that were raised," said Brandi Wildfang Simmons, chief communications officer for the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology. "The letter does not change the board’s intent to address interoperability issues so that Colorado first responders have access to a state-of-the-art communications system. The letter addressed that the Broadband Office will work collaboratively with the CPSBGB and FirstNet to address the concerns rather than asking the FCC to take action."

Simmons said the office will work with FirstNet and its contractor, AT&T, to address the concerns raised by the CPSBGB related to interoperability between telecommunication vendors, which focused on the implementation of push to talk (PTT), and in the future, mission-critical PTT (MCPTT) and the integration with the existing state LMR system. "We will discuss these concerns with our partners to gain an understanding on how they will be addressed going forward," she said.

"We decided independently to file the July 13 letter," Simmons said when asked if AT&T requested that Colorado file the follow-up letter.

After the July 6 letter was filed, "we reached out to Colorado to discuss their concerns around interoperability," an AT&T spokesperson said. "This appears to have helped address the issue as they elected to file the second letter, effectively removing the first."

"We will continue to work with the states and public safety to ensure FirstNet is purpose-built to their needs," the AT&T spokesperson said. "We are building FirstNet based on open industry standards, which means FirstNet is inherently interoperable with commercial networks. And we will continue to meet with states and agencies to discuss any questions they may have around interoperability."

When asked if FirstNet requested that Colorado file the July 13 letter, a FirstNet spokesperson said: "Consistent with our consultative and advocacy role, we engaged with the state to discuss their concerns and look forward to continuing to work with them moving forward."

“Public safety and Congress were clear in the goal, vision and mandate of FirstNet to be a single nationwide public-safety network," said a FirstNet spokesperson. "That mandate is being fulfilled, and the state of Colorado is an integral part of that success. Through our ongoing consultation and advocacy efforts with Colorado, and every state and territory, we are confidant these efforts will help guide current and future network advancements and drive innovation for public safety. No other network has this; it is unique to FirstNet. We look forward to continuing to work with and support Colorado’s public-safety community as their network is implemented in the state.”

"As far as the two filings go, they are a result of us not having fully matured our process in addressing concerns with FirstNet since the decision to opt in," said Eric Tade, Denver Fire Department chief and CPSBGB chairman. "We will be working with FirstNet, AT&T and other stakeholders to address our concerns with interoperability."

The full July 13 letter is here.

The original July 6 filing is here.

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