Business as usual is no way to conduct business
We’ve been hearing rumblings of late that have me concerned. Apparently, factions are aligning in terms of filling the three positions that public safety will receive on the board of the First Responder Network Authority. FirstNet is the newly formed entity within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that will shepherd the buildout of the nationwide broadband communications network for first responders, which Congress made possible last month by enacting legislation that cedes the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety and provides $7 billion in federal funding for the project.
In fact, we have been hearing that the politicking has been fast and furious, and that it is reminiscent of the old way of doing things in the public-safety sector, where fiefdom-building was the rule of the day. At least I hoped that this was the old way of doing things, because public safety seemed to turn a significant and remarkable corner when it came together as one and spoke with a unified voice to lobby Congress for the airwaves and money that was needed for this network. In previous columns, I described the enabling legislation as a “miracle,” but the real miracle was that public safety as a whole abandoned its parochial thinking and came together for the common good in a manner that no one could have predicted, based on history.
Now, I’m not so sure that public safety learned anything from this experience, because the backbiting has begun in earnest over the makeup of the FirstNet board. There are plenty of legitimate candidates to choose from, and all should be supported in making their cases for serving on this important board. What public safety must avoid is the kind of mud-slinging and divisive gossip regarding one candidate or another that has made our political system so partisan that it has become largely dysfunctional.
Another rumbling we’ve heard that I find troubling is the push to dismantle the Public Safety Alliance. This makes absolutely no sense to me. The PSA pulled off the lobbying equivalent of the parting of the Red Sea. Why in the world would public safety want to dismantle a group that earned the trust of members of Congress and their staffs?
It’s not like public safety doesn’t have other lobbying battles to fight. For instance, no one believes $7 billion will be enough to deploy this network nationwide, so more money likely will be needed. In addition, public safety will need a unified voice to convince Congress to finally start treating the 911 sector as something other than the red-headed stepchild.
There is much to be done to bring public-safety communications into the future, and political infighting only will get in the way. It has been said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. The adage usually has a negative connotation, but in this case, public safety would do well to remember the D Block miracle that it pulled off by coming together as one, and act accordingly.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.