WESTMINSTER, COLO.—New FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson yesterday apologized to the vendor community for sending it “mixed messages” in the past and vowed that the organization will improve relationships with the companies that will provide the solutions needed to make a nationwide broadband network for first responders a reality.

Since FirstNet was established two years ago, public-safety and LTE vendors have expressed frustrations regarding the lack of meaningful communications with the new entity. FirstNet does have to follow federal guidelines and procedures governing acquisitions and procurement, but the organization definitely wants input from vendors, Swenson said during the opening keynote speech at the annual Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting hosted by the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program.

“We haven’t been clear how interested parties can engage us,” Swenson said “I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve had from vendors—and I don’t mean small vendors, I mean big vendors—saying, ‘I’m really confused. I’ve talked to several people at FirstNet, and they’re saying, ‘We can’t talk to you,’ and I said, ‘That’s not right.’ Now, it’s probably true how [vendors] talk to us is important, but whether they can talk to us is not the issue.

“We didn’t do a very good job. We sent mixed messages to all of you in the vendor community, and I want to apologize for that.”

To help improve the situation, FirstNet has established a new “Doing Business with FirstNet” portal on its website that is designed to help ensure that all vendor inquiries are addressed. The new site was highlighted by Deputy General Manager TJ Kennedy during a presentation given at one of Monday’s FirstNet committee meetings.

“You can click on that, fill out a form and interact with us, and we’ll get back to you and tell you how and when we should do that. The technical team is going to be involved, other people in the organization are going to be involved, acquisition management is going to be involved, so hopefully you’ll find that to be a much more rewarding experience than the circus we’ve put you through up to this point.”

Swenson delivered her remarks about an hour after the FirstNet board completed its first meeting in front of a live audience (previously, meetings have been open to the public via webcasts only), a practice that will be continued in the future.