FirstNet’s public-safety-centric mindset ‘very different’ than typical federal entity, Swenson says
SAN DIEGO—FirstNet may housed in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and subject to federal rules, but public-safety users can be assured that FirstNet—and its contracted partners—plan to conduct its operations with the same urgency as first responders, according to FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson.
“We are working very hard to distance ourselves from being a federal entity and having the same response characteristics,” Swenson said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We’re creating an organization that is focused on public safety and serving them, and I think that’s a message that we really have get out. Forget the fact that [FirstNet is] ensconced in this federal agency; we can choose to create a different culture and a different mindset about how we’re serving this community.
“I recognize that we have a lot of barriers we have to work though, but we don’t take ‘No’ for an answer. That’s our culture, and we break a lot of glass, because we have to.”
FirstNet officials and staff have demonstrated their resolve during the past year by meeting targeted milestones regarding consultations and its request-for-proposal (RFP) process, Swenson said.
“People, I think, are frankly surprised that we’re actually doing what we said,” she said. “I think that’s evidence that we can be pretty successful and that we can be different.
“We truly understand [public-safety] guys and gals are on duty 24 by 7, and we have to have the same attitude. It’s very different than the federal government. The very fact that we talk about it should be evidence—that’s the world we come from.”
FirstNet expects that its contracted partner—or partners, depending on the RFP award—will have a similar attitude toward network reliability and serving public safety, Swenson said.
“Honestly, for the offerers—based on my experience of being in several of them—network performance and its reliability and up time is the major focus of those organizations … That’s how they live their lives,” she said. “If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything—your product is dead.
“Because of the way that we’re talking about dealing with partners and the fact that these folks have lived their entire life running their organizations like this, it is not at all like the federal government. These companies would go out of business, if they ran it like the federal government.”
Swenson offered her personal experience as an example.
“I know what it’s like,” Swenson said. “I ran engineering and operations at T-Mobile. In the middle of the night, if we had a failure, it was all hands on deck. You don’t just yawn and say, ‘I’ll take that call at 9 o’clock in the morning’ or say, ‘Oh, the network’s down? OK.’
“It’s such a foreign concept, which honestly is why we get so incensed when people don’t respond to us [when FirstNet makes a request]. It’s in our DNA, and we get really angry when people don’t respond to us.”