Verizon seeks interoperability with proposed Florida SLERS system, FirstNet
Legislative budget language requires that Florida’s Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) be upgraded to P25 and to interoperate with FirstNet, but law-enforcement agencies should not be limited in their choice of wireless broadband provider, a Verizon official said today to a state board.
Kim Mirabella, director of sales for Verizon’s public-sector unit in the southeast United States, congratulated members of the SLERS Joint Task Force (JTF) on their interoperability efforts with SLERS, which currently is a statewide LMR network that currently uses aging EDACS technology. Still pending approval from Gov. Ron DeSantis, new legislative budget language calls for the “current operator”—L3Harris—to upgrade the system to P25 Phase 2 and to make SLERS interoperable with FirstNet, the public-safety LTE network being built by AT&T.
Verizon also believes in interoperability, Mirabella said during today’s JTF board meeting.
“Verizon knows that public-safety communications can only be best served through reliable, interoperable LMR and broadband communications,” Mirabella said. “That’s why we, as a company, have invested, deployed and are proud of the interoperable features and functions that we’ve added to our public-safety network from the beginning, including a dedicated public-safety core, an application ecosystem, priority and preemption, as well as mission-critical push to talk. We look forward to working with the SLERS team to ensure Verizon’s interoperability with Florida’s statewide LMR network.
“And lastly, Verizon doesn’t think that interoperability should stop at LMR-to-LTE interoperability. We’re committed to comprehensive cross-carrier interoperability, and we look forward to working with this committee to achieve that here and throughout the United States.”
Mirabella, who said she lives in Tampa, made her statement during the public-comment period prior to the JTF board considering action items on its agenda. This interoperability message was reiterated by members of The Digital Decision (TDD)—a consulting group that has done work for Verizon—during the public-comment period at the end of the JTF board meeting.
Brett Railey, TDD’s senior public-safety consultant and former police chief in Winter Park, Fla., said he hopes that the legislative language citing interoperability with FirstNet by name does not limit the broadband choices for Florida agencies.
“I can’t imagine that the state of Florida would pick and choose, and ultimately mandate, into legislation that [an agency] would be required to purchase a costly piece of equipment that doesn’t allow full access to critical public-safety functionality that’s provided by a strong LTE backup, simply because it’s delivered by an alternate LTE carrier that isn’t mentioned in the enabling legislation—even through that same carrier can provide the absolute best LTE coverage within that jurisdiction,” Railey said.
“It’s these types of mandates that cause frustration for the CEO of an agency and—moving forward—could ultimately cause their abandoning of a statewide radio system that delivers so many other benefits to that agency for lack of a viable backup plan.”
Instead, Railey called on the JTF board to support each agency having the ability to choose the best broadband provider for its particular situation.
“If LTE service is designed to provide an alternative backhaul at a time when an officer is in need of communications, I’d encourage you to allow an agency’s CEO—in consultation with its CTO—to select the LTE carrier that was best suited for their individual jurisdiction, rather than box the CEO into a single provider that may not be the right choice for reliable communications for their troops,” Railey said.
“In the interest of public safety, I urge you to ensure that SLERS is inclusive of all carriers that have invested in functions mandated by the FirstNet Authority, rather than being exclusive to a single carrier that may not be best-suited to meet an agency’s needs.”
Robert LeGrande, founder and CEO of The Digital Decision, echoed this sentiment.
“I’m really proud of what Florida is doing to try to nail down interoperability for public safety,” LeGrande said during the JTF board meeting. “This is so important to our future … [with] all of the carriers that are building these features and functions, that we all get them to work together and that that they’re all interoperable for those public-safety folks who need it most.
“I applaud this board’s efforts, and we stand with you to achieve comprehensive interoperability throughout the state of Florida, in partnership with everyone who is involved with making it happen.”
JTF board members thanked all three speakers for participating in the meeting but did not make any comments about the substance of their statements.