As mandated by a new law designed to enable the buildout of a nationwide public-safety broadband network operating on 700 MHz spectrum, the FCC last week announced its appointments to the 15-member technical advisory board for first-responder interoperability.

“We appointed the board, like the legislation required,” an FCC spokesperson said. “We’re meeting with the board; we’re moving forward with that.”

Indeed, at yesterday’s first meeting of the board, two officers were elected. Charles Robinson, director of business support services for the city of Charlotte, N.C. — one of the 700 MHz waiver recipient jurisdictions — will serve as chair for the board. The vice chair will be Kenneth Budka, senior director of advanced mission-critical communications in Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs chief technology office.

Establishing the interoperability board is the first action mandated by a law enacted last month that reallocates the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public-safety and provides $7 billion in funding to pay for the buildout of a nationwide broadband network for first responders. The board is required to complete its work by May 22, when the results will be provided to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and the interoperability board will be disbanded.

In addition to Robinson and Budka, the other 12 board members appointed by the FCC are:

  • Steve Proctor, executive director of the Utah Communications Agency Network;
  • Col. Kenneth Hughes Jr. (Ret.), regional communications coordinator, New Orleans Urban Area Security Initiative;
  • Brian Shepherd, deputy director for the Adams County (Colo.) Communication Center;
  • Todd Bianchi, firefighter/paramedic for Washington (D.C.) Fire and EMS;
  • Brenda Decker, chief information officer for the state of Nebraska;
  • Bob Azzi, senior vice president for Sprint Nextel’s network unit;
  • Diane Wesche, director of government network and technology for Verizon Wireless;
  • Ed Chao, senior vice president of corporate engineering and network operations for MetroPCS Communications;
  • Ron Strecker, CEO of Panhandle Telephone Cooperative and Panhandle Telecommunications Systems;
  • Dennis Martinez, chief technology officer for the RF communications division of Harris;
  • Paul Steinberg, senior vice president and chief technology officer for Motorola Solutions; and
  • Bill Price, director of broadband programs for the state of Florida.

Earlier this month, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) selected Dereck Orr of the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST) to serve on the board as a non-voting member.

Mobile wireless consultant Andrew Seybold, a longtime supporter of a public-safety broadband network, said he believes the appointees are qualified to execute the work envisioned by the new law.

“I think [FCC officials] did a wonderful job--they got people who were on our side, they got detractors, they got experts from everywhere in the organizations, they got experts in public safety,” Seybold said. “I don’t know who did the picking, but I commend them very highly for it.”

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