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Latest FirstNet meetings offer encouraging signs

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While they may have lacked the kind of detail that many in the industry crave, the latest FirstNet meetings included positive signs in several notable areas.

LAS VEGAS—Two weeks ago, FirstNet conducted meetings of its four committees and the full board, which approved a roadmap that outlines the steps that the organization plans to take in its attempt to design and deploy a nationwide wireless broadband network for U.S. first responders.

While the roadmap was the headline event from the meetings—it’s always good to have a plan that everyone agrees to follow, even it has to be adjusted to meet changing circumstances in the future—it was not the only positive FirstNet note to emerge during that week. A few of the other encouraging signs from those meetings included:

A decidedly “public-safety” feel—Members of the FirstNet board and staff have always gone out of their way to emphasize that this system will be, first and foremost, a broadband network dedicated to meeting the needs of public-safety personnel. But many in the industry continued to express doubts about the FirstNet commitment to first responders, noting that the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) had not been part of a FirstNet board meeting during the first two years after FirstNet was created.

Two weeks ago, however, the FirstNet meetings were conducted in the headquarters of the New York Police Department (NYPD), so board members literally were immersed in a public-safety environment. Furthermore, PSAC Chairman Harlin McEwen gave a presentation on the “human factors” associated with integrating broadband technologies into the daily operations of first responders. Hopefully, such presentations from the PSAC will become a regular part of FirstNet meetings, as the advisory committee has relevant information to share.

Updates on hiring and office facilities—FirstNet has hired a Chief Information Officer (CIO) who should be starting very soon with the organization, and the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) has been selected and hopefully will begin working within the next month. Dozens of other hirings are in the process of being finalized, so FirstNet is on its way to having the kind of staff necessary to pull off this enormous, complex challenge.

Of course, staff members need a place to work, so it was great to hear that FirstNet’s technical facility in Boulder, Colo., is being prepared to house as many as 80 people and will include technical laboratory equipment.

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on Mar 24, 2014

FirstNet executives have to be vetted for security clearances. This process takes time, and it is improper to name names until the clearances are granted.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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