FirstNet officials provide details about state relationships
FirstNet plans to work with all 56 U.S. states and territories to create a plan for deploying public-safety broadband communications within their jurisdictions, three high-ranking FirstNet officials said during recent comments made to Congress and at the LTE North America conference in Dallas.
The comments were made in the wake of concerns that were raised during a U.S. House subcommittee meeting about the lack of information coming from FirstNet about its deployment plans.
“But for all the efforts by FirstNet, much work remains to gain the support of the states and the tribes, the commercial wireless community, and most importantly the first responders who will rely on FirstNet in life-or-death situations,” subcommittee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said in his opening statement.
“Ultimately FirstNet needs the confidence and cooperation of all of these groups to realize the standards, economies of scale, and potential that FirstNet holds. In order to do so, FirstNet must be an informative and cooperative national coordinator of the myriad moving parts that comprise the public-safety community, and do so in short order. Unfortunately, this is precisely where FirstNet seems to be struggling.”
The subcommittee also heard testimony from Stu Davis, the chief information officer for the state of Ohio, who said it is difficult for state officials to make plans for statewide LMR systems and next-generation 911 without knowing what resources would be needed for the FirstNet system.
FirstNet Chairman Sam Ginn testified that FirstNet is conducting outreach to each state and territory. He said that FirstNet is working closely with each entity to ensure that state officials have significant input into the network plan within their jurisdictions that will be integrated into the nationwide FirstNet system.
“When we reach the point where we’ve completed the RFP and present it to the states, there will be no surprises in Ohio as to what’s in that document,” Ginn said. “My comment to Mr. Davis would be, ‘Work with us. We want to do this as partners. Hopefully, at the end of this, we will have agreed on a network plan for Ohio. And, when it’s presented, you’ll know all of the details, even before it’s presented.”
This message was reiterated by FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino and FirstNet board member Craig Farrill—FirstNet’s acting chief technical officer—during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications at the LTE North America conference.
“One thing I want to get across is that our view is that each one of these plans has to be a unique and jointly developed plan for each state,” D’Agostino said. “That’s the key to the success, in our opinion, of adoption—the ability for the governors and the agencies in the states to say, ‘My team has worked with FirstNet, we have built this plan together, and we believe in it.’
“Otherwise … I can say, ‘Hi, we’re from the federal government. We have a great plan—use it.’ And they’re going to toss me out. I want to build it from the bottom up, and I want to have it really jointly developed and cost it out. Then, I think we’ll have a high degree of success.”
Farrill echoed this sentiment.
“We want [officials for states and territories] to say, ‘This is my plan,’ before it goes to the governor, not ‘This is FirstNet’s plan,’” Farrill said. “This is Colorado’s plan, this is D.C.’s plan, and this is Alaska’s plan—that’s ultimately where we have to get it. That’s when you know it becomes theirs—because they helped write it, they helped draft it and they own it—and then we’ll be successful. That’s a lot of work.”
In other words, while many industry observers expected FirstNet to devise a nationwide network design that states could choose to join, the nationwide plan will be more of an evolution, based on the various plans for each state and territory, D’Agostino said.
“Everybody wants to see FirstNet’s plan for rollout,” he said. “Well, [there will be] 56 different plans, and they have to come together, and then FirstNet can describe what the overarching plan will look like. But it’s really going to come together in pieces, as states are ready.
“Our plan for rollout at the highest level is that we know we’re going to build and own a core. We’re going to do that, and we’re going to scale it as the rest of the radio networks come on. That’s our plan, from a technical perspective.”