N.C. Assembly Report Finds Both LMR, FirstNet Necessary; No Duplication
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 | Comments

The North Carolina general assembly’s program evaluation division (PED) released a report that found the state’s 800 MHz mission-critical communications network and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) services are complementary but do not duplicate functionality.

North Carolina’s Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders (VIPER) and FirstNet technologies share the common purpose of improving interoperability for public-safety first responders, but each system possesses important capabilities for first responders that the other system does not offer, the report said.

In addition, the VIPER system is supported by equipment purchases and in-kind contributions from local agencies, and PED found that charging user fees could reduce participation in the network and diminish statewide interoperability. Furthermore, approximately 70 percent of VIPER’s 220 sites contain infrastructure or equipment from non-state entities, and these partnerships are crucial to VIPER’s success. Failure to upgrade VIPER’s base stations and related software will adversely affect VIPER’s continued reliability and interoperability, the report said.

Motorola Solutions will stop supporting VIPER’s base stations, which will reach the end of their life cycles as of January 2019, as well as VIPER’s current software, which is four years behind the most recently available version. The report’s recommendations said the state should appropriate $22.8 million in fiscal year (FY) 2018-2019 and $16.5 million in FY 2019-2020 for base station and software upgrades.

“To fully fund these upgrades, the State Highway Patrol requires $34.8 million in nonrecurring appropriations and $2.3 million in recurring appropriations,” the recommendations said.

The report said the general assembly should direct the North Carolina Department of Public Safety to conduct an annual survey of VIPER users and report the results to a committee of the general assembly, as well as increase outreach. The report also recommended that the State Highway Patrol determine the value of the in-kind contributions including funding, land, buildings, towers and equipment for sites that support VIPER.

A state law directed PED to evaluate VIPER and FirstNet technologies with an emphasis on the systems’ current states, potential duplications, governance and financing structures, and upgrade needs. The full report and recommendations are here.

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