Although its membership has not been announced, early signs indicate that the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) will play a vital role in helping the(FirstNet) board establish and maintain a nationwide 700 MHz system for first responders.
FirstNet board member Jeff Johnson said he believes input from the PSAC will be especially important in the planning stages of the network, because the advisory committee is best positioned to assess the technical requirements that the LTE system must meet to be useful to public safety in times of crisis.
"I know the board is looking forward to the PSAC functioning at that technical level," Johnson said during an interview with Urgent Communications. "There are some daunting challenges at the FirstNet board level that are a large enough lift for the board. Having that broad, diverse group of people [on the PSAC] that is focused on the technical aspects is really going to give us the access to the depth of field experience that we're going to need."
In addition to this technical advice, the PSAC is expected to be a key resource to FirstNet as it tries to create a business model that will allow the public-safety LTE network to be financially self-sustaining by helping the FirstNet board identify potential customers, Johnson said.
"Those are things that aren't easily harvested at the board level that a PSAC can bring rather quickly back, because the stakeholders are all sitting around the table," he said. "If you add to that having the governors and the mayors at the table and solving problems for the board before they become problems, the PSAC isn't just a statutory requirement; they're a functional requirement. I know the board sees it that way."
Indeed, FirstNet Chairman Sam Ginn emphasized the importance of advisory committees — mandated to exist by law — during the FirstNet board's initial meeting in September.
"We're mandated to have advisory boards and communicate with them," Ginn said. "Let me tell you where I think this board is: Whether we had that mandate or not, we need to be talking."
Ginn recently announced that Harlin McEwen — a longtime advocate of public-safety broadband as chairman of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), which saw its spectrum license cancelled in favor of FirstNet last week — will serve as chairman of the PSAC. While the PSAC vice chairman could be named soon, the full membership of the PSAC likely will not be finalized until early next year, McEwen said.
FirstNet has indicated that the core membership of the PSAC will consist of the organizations participating in SAFECOM, which is organized under the U.S.(DHS). During SAFECOM's semi-annual meeting in Philadelphia last week, McEwen conducted what he described as an "informal, unofficial" discussion regarding the PSAC with representatives of many of the organizations that will suggest members for the advisory committee.
"We were able to brief them about how we're going to be organized, which won't be released to the public until it's finalized," McEwen said during an interview with Urgent Communications. "It was good. I thought there was very good support for how we're going at it.
"From the comments that I got, people are looking forward to getting involved in the process."