Mirgon emphasized the fact that the FirstNet Association currently is not sponsored by FirstNet or AT&T, which is FirstNet’s nationwide contractor.

“We really are trying to be independent … That’s why our name is the FirstNet Association—not FirstNet, not AT&T, but the FirstNet Association,” Mirgon said. “Starting off with no sponsorship makes it very clear to everyone that this is not them. This is being done by three people who were there before Day 1 [of FirstNet]. We were part of the Public Safety Alliance and part of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust.

“I think you can trust us, because look at what our history is.”

Mirgon said he would not be surprised if AT&T sponsors FirstNet Association initiatives in the future.

FirstNet is not a sponsor of the FirstNet Association, but FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson issued a statement of support for the fledgling organization.

“The emergence of the FirstNet Association offers great promise for the FirstNet public-safety user community and vendor community,” Swenson said in a prepared statement. “We stand ready to encourage its success so that FirstNet fully realizes its exclusive public-safety mission.”

FirstNet will work with the FirstNet Association as part of its regular outreach to organizations that advance the FirstNet ecosystem for the benefit of public safety, a FirstNet spokesperson told IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

The FirstNet Association is a for-profit organization that includes a non-profit foundation that will allow certain capabilities, such as the establishment of a scholarship program. Mirgon and Gillespie said there is a specific reason why the FirstNet Association opted for the for-profit model.

“Depending on what state you file in, your membership is your voting block [in a non-profit organization]—your membership can come together, vote you all out and change it [the organization’s mission],” Mirgon said. “In theory, a carrier could come in and buy up all of the memberships and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’”

Gillespie agreed.

“We want to make sure that we keep the focus where we believe it’s supposed to go,” Gillespie said. “If you have a bunch of people that have a larger voting block, they might hijack the organization and take it in the wrong direction.”