FirstNet to Develop Road Map, Adopts Network Reinvestment Principles
Thursday, March 21, 2019 | Comments

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) announced plans to develop a road map to enhance the FirstNet network. The board also endorsed a set of principles to guide FirstNet’s financial investments in the network and signed an agreement with a university regarding rural emergency response.

The announcements came at the FirstNet board meeting held in in Jackson, Mississippi. The full road map is set to be released at the June board meeting.

“This is the only nationwide broadband network that public safety has a voice in,” said FirstNet Board Chair Edward Horowitz. “From the earliest consultation days through the launch of the network, public safety has been and will continue to be at the center of everything we do. As we strive to fully realize the promise of FirstNet, we are engaging with public safety to chart a path forward for the network. Using their feedback, our road map will advance the network and guide our investments over the next several years and beyond.”

FirstNet officials said they are engaging with the public-safety community in various forums to develop the road map and capture their feedback on how broadband technology can serve their operational needs. The plan will incorporate industry trends through market research and outreach to the private sector, academia and industry associations. FirstNet will refresh the road map to ensure it accounts for public safety’s operational needs and industry trends.

The board also adopted a resolution outlining FirstNet’s investments principles. FirstNet Chief Financial Officer Kim Farrington said the fiscal year 2019 budget includes $78 million for reinvestment into the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).

The principles noted that the reinvestment funds should:
• Be derived from and benefit public safety
• Maintain and advance the foundation of the network
• Consider a balanced approach and provide value to public safety
• Be fiscally responsible and reflect strong financial management

FirstNet is developing an experience program in conjunction with the FirstNet Innovation and Test Lab in Boulder, Colorado, to introduce first responders to current and future technologies through hands-on educational experiences. To help develop the experience program, FirstNet announced a memorandum of understanding with the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) to drive innovation for rural emergency medical care and response.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith joined officials from FirstNet and UMMC at a signing ceremony on the UMMC campus to unveil the agreement.

“Emergencies can happen anywhere at any time – and in rural areas, communications is often a challenge,” said Ross. “FirstNet is designed to help meet these challenges and modernize public-safety communications. With this collaboration, the FirstNet Authority and the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services are coming together to drive innovation for first responders in Mississippi and nationwide to help them save lives and protect communities.”

UMMC, Mississippi’s only academic health sciences center, established the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services to help the state maintain medical services during emergencies and disasters. Supporting that mission is UMMC’s extensive telehealth network, which in 2017 was designated one of two Telehealth Centers of Excellence by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

The two organizations plan to drive innovation for rural emergency medicine and response and share case studies, lessons learned and best practices related to public safety’s use of mobile broadband in rural areas.

“We established the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services in part to help improve the knowledge and capabilities of first responders statewide, especially those serving the most remote areas,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We can handle the medical support training and emergency response communications, but we need partners to help us with the technology necessary for every part of the state to be connected to potential life-saving support in real time. A collaboration with FirstNet will have a dramatically positive effect across the state during a disaster or other emergency event.”

The collaboration will give FirstNet critical insight into how medical incidents are handled in rural communities. Specifically, it will show how first responders can leverage innovative technologies to improve medical response and patient outcomes. The entities plan to create demonstrations related to rural first responders’ use of broadband to be incorporated into FirstNet’s new experience program in Boulder.

The agreement also represents the first step toward establishing FirstNet’s university program, under which it plans to partner with universities with expertise in different aspects of public-safety communications to enhance the network and educate public-safety employees on how best to use cutting-edge technologies.

The Mississippi Wireless Communication Commission (MWCC), which oversees the state’s two-way radio network, asked the FCC to place Long Term Evolution (LTE) interoperability issues between carriers on public notice and seek comment in a Dec. 6 letter.

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