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FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino: We need to hear from you

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FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino reflects on the two-year anniversary of Congress passing the legislation that created FirstNet, which is charged with building and maintaining a nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety.

By Bill D’Agostino

This Saturday, Feb. 22, marks the two-year anniversary of the creation of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). But it feels like an eternity, considering how far we’ve come in such a short time.

Congress was clear in the historic task it assigned FirstNet: to develop plans for and operate a nationwide, broadband network dedicated to public safety. But as a startup organization, FirstNet’s challenge has been to translate that visionary blueprint spelled out in the law into the reality of a one-of-a-kind nationwide, interoperable network.

The FirstNet board was named in August 2012, and the first board meeting was held a month later. For months, we had limited resources to accomplish the mission, but now we are focused on staffing up the team to be successful.  

Seventeen months later, we’ve assembled a balanced and talented management team—from both industry and government—with vast experience in building wireless networks, project management, public safety, finance and the law. And today, we’re continuing to build out our team that will assist us with outreach, communications, state consultation and development of state plans. We’re hiring as quickly as possible, so keep an eye on USAjobs.gov for job postings.

Our work so far has been focused on putting the foundational building blocks in place for getting this network up and running. We want to get the job done as expeditiously as possible, but we have one opportunity to get it right and we understand this tremendous responsibility. That’s why we’re investing countless hours mapping out our business strategy and operating plan.

Helping to inform us in that effort are the more than 300 responses we received to 12 Requests for Information (RFIs) on the technical details of building this public-safety network. We issued an RFI for devices last May and then issued 10 RFIs last July on two crucial portions of the nationwide public-safety network: the radio access network (RAN) and core network. The most recent RFI issued last November was on application platforms. We’re still digesting the information we received from a wide range of stakeholders on all of these issues, and they will greatly assist us as we work to develop our plans

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Feb 25, 2014

Mr. D'Agostino,
I would like to provide my advice as to how to help move this forward. My recommendation would be to start as any business venture would typically start, and that would be to not try and build a complete business right from the beginning. No business starts off by building up the buildings, the campus, and the production facilities in every state before the lights get turned on. They usually just build up the business as the requirements of the customers become much more difficult to meet with existing resources. As it stands now, we do not have the ability to negotiate directly (in almost all cases) with our current broadband service providers for "public safety grade" service levels. In addition, we also do not have any way of jointly managing our services that we purchase from them and depend on. While we are not asking for the ability to impede the improvement of services or support, we just want to know what we can obtain and when they may or may not be available for use, so that we can manage around them until they are available again. In addition, we would like for these services to be available at current or fair market prices. Free would always be better, but that is not an actual reality, as someone would always pay for it somewhere. May I suggest that FirstNet not get mired down in trying to construct the ultimate network for anyone, anywhere, at this time, and evaluate what is available for now, get agreements in place for management/administration with existing vendors, put a FirstNet label on it, and then start down the path toward improvement once services are being provided. Getting past this point should at least get public safety end users a better product than what they can obtain today and allow for a manageable path toward any improvements that can be realized (hardening sites, public safety grade voice communications and devices, etc.). If a true analysis is made of how much public safety is already using existing forms of available broadband resources from commercial vendors, it far outweighs the extent of what is used currently on internally owned and controlled infrastructures. Eventually, one tool is going to be used more than others in the communications toolbox. But each agency will eventually have to decide which those are and when to use them, over time.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 25, 2014

Has the possibility of long term power outages been considered? What about redundant backhaul paths in case one path goes down? Have you sought input from the arateur radio community?

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