2017 FirstNet News
Five years later, public safety can see a light at the end of FirstNet tunnel
February 21, 2017
Tomorrow marks the five-year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing into law the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. At the time, the headline-grabbing aspects of the legislation were an extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut and myriad initiatives designed to provide assistance to the large unemployed population.
Today, the tax-cut and unemployment benefits from this law largely have been forgotten. However, a generally overlooked feature of the bill finally is on the verge of becoming reality: FirstNet’s nationwide public-safety broadband network.
Final Deadline Passes in Rivada Protest of FirstNet RFP
February 17, 2017
The final deadline listed on a scheduling order released by U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Elaine D. Kaplan was for responses by the government and intervenor AT&T to replies on motions filed by Rivada Mercury.
The content, as well as who filed each document, is sealed under a protection order intended to safeguard proprietary and other sensitive information included in the case.
Final written briefs submitted in FirstNet protest case, court to determine next step
February 16, 2017
Officials for the U.S. Department of Justice and AT&T today submitted the final scheduled written briefs in the Rivada Mercury lawsuit protesting its elimination from the FirstNet nationwide procurement in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which will decide whether further input is needed before making a decision in the case.
Judge Elaine Kaplan is expected to review all of the written briefs in the case before determining whether oral arguments or other additional input may be needed prior to rendering a decision in the case, according to multiple sources.
When it comes to public safety, Americans expect results from first responders. The first-of-its-kind First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will carry high-speed data, location information, images, and streaming video to public-safety users, so they can have the best information to make critical decisions quickly. FirstNet will ensure interoperability among first responders and will take advantage of existing telecommunication assets, vendor competition and economies of scale to drive down costs to offer a dedicated public safety service.
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will be showcased at International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE), which will take place March 27-31, 2017 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
FirstNet officials recently traveled to New Orleans to exhibit at the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) conference. NAEMSP is a national organization created more than 30 years ago for EMS physicians responsible for medical care in an out-of-hospital setting.
The NAEMSP annual meeting provided an opportunity for physicians, fellows, associated professionals and students to meet and discuss ways to improve out-of-hospital emergency medical care. This was FirstNet’s first time exhibiting at the conference, which is attended by more than 800 people from around the world
Use of Simulation and Emerging Technologies in Firefighter Training
February 10, 2017
The use of simulations to enhance skills training is common in fields such as aviation, military, law enforcement, and medical services, where training in real environments can be dangerous and expensive. The use of simulation and emerging technologies has been less common in firefighter training, but interest is growing. The Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology and FirstNet explored some emerging technologies with the potential for improving simulation training at the recent Fire Leadership Challenge 2016, sponsored by the Colorado State Fire Chiefs Association.
Training firefighters in different situations that may arise on the fireground often involves a burn building at a training center, a controlled burn of a structure, or a prescribed wildland burn. Although these scenarios provide live-fire situations, they can be expensive in terms of personnel time and equipment and can also create the risk of unintended property damage or harm to the trainee.
All eyes on court as decision time approaches in FirstNet case
February 9, 2017
More than two months ago, it became public that the Rivada Mercury bidding team had filed a lawsuit challenging the procurement process associated with selecting a contractor to build and maintain the FirstNet’s proposed nationwide public-safety broadband network.
Early court documents in the case—and an SEC filing by AT&T—revealed that Rivada Mercury is contesting the fact that it was excluded from the “competitive range” stage of the FirstNet procurement, leaving the AT&T bidding team as the lone entity being considered for the 25-year contract. Rivada Mercury claimed it could have addressed the concerns cited, if it had been given the chance to explain its offer in greater detail—something it would have had the chance to do, if it was included in the “competitive range” stage.
Alabama today announced that its request for proposal (RFP) seeking bidders willing to build and maintain a statewide public-safety LTE radio access network (RAN) generated three submissions, making Alabama the second state in the country to receive proposals that could become an alternative to the nationwide FirstNet buildout.
Although the announcement was released today, bidding for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) closed on Jan. 31. ALEA did not identify the vendor groups submitting bids in its short press release.
First Responders Need Reliability of FirstNet Network, Los Angeles Sheriff Says
February 6, 2017
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Chief Scott Edson talks about the need for an LTE broadband network that gives priority to first responders. When emergencies happen, he says, there are 88 cities and at least 40 police departments all using the same commercial broadband network. The result is a traffic jam of dropped cellular signals and slow data sharing.
“FirstNet brings us the pipeline we need for that kind of solution,” Edson says.
With more than 100,000 fans in the stands, commercial carrier networks often become so congested near the Ohio State football stadium that they “won’t even ping” when users try to get a signal to communicate during a game, according to Kelly Castle, program manager at FirstNet Ohio.
How often do you think about how your smart phone or tablet maintains its signal?
What about in mobile situations, such as being in a vehicle traveling through a mix of rural and urban areas? While most people notice when a call gets dropped or data doesn’t go through, it’s probably not something most think about until it affects them. For most users, a lost signal or connection is a temporary annoyance. However, for FirstNet’s future users – law enforcement officers, fire fighters, paramedics and other emergency personnel who are always on the go – having a reliable connection is critical.
This is one area in which FirstNet’s Innovation and Test Lab (FirstNet Lab) will help. The FirstNet Lab at our technical headquarters in Boulder, CO, is a state of the art facility where FirstNet and its future partner will test public safety functionality and features unique to FirstNet’s mission-critical broadband network. This includes key mission critical services, such as quality of service; priority; preemption; and other future services and applications.
Law enforcement officers, fire service members, and EMS personnel – who are on the front lines protecting their communities every day – will have the opportunity to access and use the FirstNet network once operational. The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) is one of the key groups that represents law enforcement personnel.
Building Communications Infrastructure for First Responders
February 3, 2017
Think back to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing when police were searching for the suspects and paramedics were trying to communicate with hospitals to help the injured. The local Copley Square command center personnel stopped using cell phones due to congestion on commercial networks caused by thousands of residents who were simultaneously trying to reach their loved ones. Instead, public safety officials used land mobile radios to communicate with each other, but they acknowledged they could have benefitted from access to graphics, maps and other data that are available to the public every day.
The ability to communicate is critically important for first responders during manmade or natural disasters, when incident commanders need to quickly convey vital data to every first responder and learn what resources are available from neighboring jurisdictions. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is working to deliver a broadband network with built-in interoperability to enhance public safety agencies’ ability to protect and serve.
With a new year in full swing, FirstNet is focusing its consultation program around one of our top priorities for 2017: the successful development and delivery of State Plans. Our goal is to deliver and discuss State Plans that reflect the public safety priorities of each State and Territory for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network.
To achieve this, we will build on our consultation efforts through governance body meetings, SPOC team interaction, executive meetings and additional public safety meetings. We are designing these engagements with targeted outcomes in mind, including:
•Validate who is important to the State Plan process in each state
•Describe the State Plan delivery and review process in each state, including access considerations and web portal content
•Affirm states’ priorities, such as business factors and public safety needs.
FirstNet will also work with our future awardee to refine value propositions and capabilities specific to each state or territory. Our consultation with the states will help ensure that each Governor receives an accurate, effective, proposal that reflects the state’s needs.
For Arvada’s Bob Fifer, the world of information technology and telecommunications comes easily. After a 23-year career in the industry, he understands more than most why it’s so crucial to have reliable broadband.
For many, when the internet goes down for a stint, it’s a minor inconvenience. But Arvada Councilmember At-Large, and Mayor Pro Tem Fifer wants to stress how critical the internet has become and what it can mean for Arvada’s future, especially in terms of public safety. And he finally has a place to do just that as a recent appointee to an advisory committee for the Federal Communications Commission.
As we look back on the past year, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is pleased by the many accomplishments we achieved in 2016. We’ve taken many important steps forward in our efforts to deploy a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) and put life-saving technology into the hands of first responders. And we look forward to the work we’ve put in over the last 12 months paying dividends in 2017, as we move into implementation mode with the network.
As the chair of FirstNet’s Consultation and Outreach Committee, I’m proud of the ambitious agenda we set for the year, which included:
•expanding outreach to involve more local-level first responders
•collecting actionable information and feedback from federal, state, and tribal agencies
•preparing decision-makers for State Plan delivery in 2017
Top AT&T executives yesterday noted that the possibility of the carrier winning the nationwide FirstNet award is one of several “potentially very good things” that could happen this year. Another is tax reform that would lead to the telecom giant paying a lower corporate tax rate, allowing the company to invest the money necessary to accelerate the deployment of various initiatives, including the potential FirstNet buildout.
FirstNet Innovation and Test Lab Blog Series: Testing Coverage Reliability
January 26, 2017
How often do you think about how your smart phone or tablet maintains its signal?What about in mobile situations, such as being in a vehicle traveling through a mix of rural and urban areas? While most people notice when a call gets dropped or data doesn’t go through, it’s probably not something most think about until it affects them. For most users, a lost signal or connection is a temporary annoyance. However, for FirstNet’s future users – law enforcement officers, fire fighters, paramedics and other emergency personnel who are always on the go – having a reliable connection is critical.
Ross, 79, was approved by a voice vote of the committee, and multiple media outlets indicated that he is expected to be approved by a vote of the full Senate with little resistance. During the same meeting, the committee also approved Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao, 63, by a voice vote.
Ross is expected to be very active in the negotiation of international trade deals, but last week he also fielded a question from Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), who noted that FirstNet has made significant progress but continues to face “a good number of challenges.” Thune asked Ross to commit to being “engaged” and to informing the committee if he observes “any waste, fraud or abuse” within FirstNet.
“I certainly support the concept of FirstNet,” Ross said during the hearing, which was webcast. “I gather there is some controversy in some states about it, and I gather there have been some technical issues—I’m obviously not yet conversant with them. But the idea of giving the first responders all of the tools that you can imagine that could be useful has to be the right direction to go. So I’m certainly supportive of that.
Smart City Study Finds Mission-Critical LTE Importance, LMR Sustainability
January 24, 2017
Nearly 40 percent of survey respondents anticipate widespread adoption and implementation of smart city initiatives across the United States in the next six to 10 years. About three-quarters of municipalities and smart service provider respondents indicated that public private partnerships may be the most effective financing model. Black & Veatch’s report is based on a survey of 741 participants across the municipal, utility and technology sectors.
The report said the nationwide public-safety broadband network being procured by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) could revolutionize public-safety communications altogether. Next-generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) applications are helping increase efficiency for first responders and other agencies. The deployment of broadband LTE will eventually make it possible to transmit voice, data, pictures and video in real time. As these applications integrate with other “smart” efforts, public-safety professionals can more efficiently protect and deliver services to their communities. These communications modernizations should synchronize with other technological advancements that increase levels of service delivered to constituents.
The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) is advocating for increased cybersecurity partnerships with the Federal government, according to its 2017 advocacy agenda.
The Federal advocacy agenda, which was released Jan. 18, outlines the four issues that NASCIO will focus on this year:
1.State chief information officers’ (CIOs) seek strong intergovernmental partnership on cybersecurity.
2.Flexibility in Federal funding regulations that encourage legacy system modernization and cloud adoption.
3.Information sharing and safeguards, meeting citizen expectations.
4.Successful implementation of First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) plans in each state
This blog is the latest in a series on 10 ways FirstNet will help public safety save lives and secure communities. FirstNet is developing the first nationwide public safety broadband network to provide first responders the advanced technologies they need to save lives and keep their communities safe.
When thousands of people gather at major events such as concerts, festivals or sporting events, commercial wireless networks can get congested. That makes it hard for users – including public safety – to get a signal.
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) in the coming months will select a private vendor to develop and deploy a national network dedicated to first responders that uses the most advanced wireless technology available.
The CIO group also will advocate for the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet — a congressionally-mandated effort to stand up a mobile broadband network for first responders and public safety.
“Interoperability remains a central issue and a challenge for organizations throughout the state and I believe anywhere in the country,” John Stevens, statewide interoperability coordinator at the New Hampshire Department of Safety, told Homeland Preparedness News.
Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet’s chief technology officer (CTO), said the lab in Boulder, Colo., will be used to test public-safety-specific devices, equipment, applications and capabilities not found in commercial broadband networks.
Volunteer first responders are a crucial part of the public safety community, making up 69% of the firefighters across the country in 2014. In addition to use by full-time public safety personnel in each state and territory, FirstNet will be available for the nation's volunteer firefighters, EMS, and law enforcement officers.
Connecting responders to reliable broadband communications will provide them access to valuable tools needed to perform their jobs safely and successfully: “FirstNet is going to give us, for the first time, a mission critical proprietary system that’s designed, implemented, built-out, and operated for public safety,” says Chief Vaughan in the video below. This is particularly important as one of the top five leading factors related to firefighter deaths is inadequate communications, reports NVFC in the 2016 Critical Health and Safety Issues in the Volunteer Fire Services. Firefighters need to have reliable communications.
If you know FirstNet, then you know we are focused on putting broadband technology into the hands of public safety personnel nationwide. What you may not know is that FirstNet also is leading the way on a host of public safety-focused technologies, not the least of which is in bringing to market the best possible software applications for public safety to use in emergencies and day to day scenarios.
“The excitement surrounding FirstNet not only is in its broadband capabilities, which will be a game-changer, but also in the competition for public safety apps that we expect it to spark,” FirstNet Chief Technology Officer Jeff Bratcher said. “If FirstNet can help foster that kind of technical innovation, we will open up a new world in which first responders are more prepared, safer, and in better position to serve the public, from the apps they will be able to access.”
During the FirstNet board meeting last month, officials made it clear that FirstNet is ready to begin taking the steps necessary to transition to deployment and operational tasks as soon as its procurement for a nationwide contractor is completed.
Of course, what is not clear is when the procurement will be done and a nationwide contract awarded, as the procurement process is the subject of a legal proceeding before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. In the case, the Rivada Mercury bidding team—led by Rivada Networks—claims that its proposal was wrongly excluded from the procurement’s “competitive range,” which apparently includes only AT&T’s bidding team.
NIST looks to accelerate FirstNet with $30 million grant program NIST looks to accelerate FirstNet with $30 million grant program
January 9, 2017
Although the nationwide build of a dedicated LTE network for first responders has faced numerous delays, federal officials are looking to give the First Responder Network Authority a shot in the arm by way of a new grant program offering up $30 million to speed the development of underlying technologies.
According to the grant announcement, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Public Safety Communications Research Division hopes to “accelerate research, development, production and testing activities,” related to six areas of public safety communications technology. Those include mission critical voice; location-based services; public safety analytics; communication demand modeling; research and prototyping platforms; and resilient systems.
A legislative committee studying broadband access in Georgia has issued its report to the legislature, recommending tax credits and reworking regulations that stymie growth. The Committee on High-Speed Broadband Communications Access for All Georgians held a series of meetings across the state in 2016 to determine broadband availability and need.
The committee studying broadband access in Georgia met to approve its report to the full legislature, recommending ways to boost rural broadband access in the state. The lawmakers on that committee held a final meeting at the state Capitol in late December to approve the report they have since sent to the full legislature that’s intended as a road map for possible legislative action in 2017.
“There are so many different pieces to this puzzle … it’s going to take so many different people working together,” state Rep. Susan Holmes, R-Monticello, told The Macon Telegraph after that last meeting.
The committee recommended lawmakers look to eliminate taxes on telecom equipment purchases to deploy in rural areas.
The panel also suggested some other steps to promote private investment, including providing tax credits for individuals or businesses that invest in rural broadband infrastructure, as well as offering tax incentives for providers deploying broadband to recruit and hire the local labor force.
The committee also wants to untangle a regulatory mess by developing a uniform, streamlined permitting process at the local level and requiring the Georgia Department of Transportation to open the right-of-way for conduits and fiber on rural roads.
More of the committee’s recommendations include:
Establish broadband funding programs at state agencies, including the Department of Community Affairs and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.
Explore allowing the Department of Transportation and other state agencies to lease excess fiber to providers.
Explore how public-private partnerships can help fuel the growth of rural broadband. The committee also suggests crafting incentives to encourage large and small telecom companies to work together and eliminate duplicative efforts.
Have Georgia participate in the federal FirstNet program, which was created in response to the crippling of the nation’s wireless network after the terror attacks on 9/11, making it difficult for first responders to communicate with one another. Congress set aside $7 billion to establish, operate and maintain FirstNet so responders will have their own radio spectrum. The state would pay a user fee (the amount is undetermined) to participate.
Encourage rural education agencies eligible for federal E-rate funds designed to improve high-speed internet access in schools to apply for the money, to improve educational infrastructure.
CES 2017: Officials Talk FirstNet, Public Safety Technology
January 5, 2017
As electronics giants revealed their latest partnerships and products at CES 2017, a group of public safety professionals gathered Jan. 4 for an update on FirstNet, the national First Responder Network Authority signed into federal law nearly five years ago — and a panel discussion about what’s next for their industry.
FirstNet President T.J. Kennedy told the Consumer Electronics Show audience — a roughly half-full room including public safety professionals and at least one general contractor — that the network has taken in bids and should award a contract later this year.
Alabama changes RFP deadline for public-safety LTE network to Jan. 31
January 3, 2017
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) officials last week decided that vendors wanting to build a statewide public-safety LTE radio access network (RAN) must submit proposals by Jan. 31, as opposed to the previous plan of waiting until after FirstNet announces the contractor for its nationwide public-safety broadband network.
ALEA had established a request-for-proposals (RFP) deadline that would be 15 days after FirstNet made its nationwide contractor announcement, but that strategy was reconsidered after legal documents noted that the contractor award would not be made until at least March 1. Those legal documents are part of Rivada Mercury’s litigation protesting its exclusion from the “competitive range” of the nationwide procurement, leaving the AT&T bidding team as the only entity remaining in the “competitive range,” according to multiple sources.
NIST’s public safety communications research division will accept applications from nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions and other non-federal entities for the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program through Feb. 28, the First Responder Network Authority said Dec. 22.
According to the funding opportunity announcement, eligible applicants include institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, for-profit organizations, state and local governments, Indian tribes, hospitals, foreign public entities, and foreign governments. Applications must be submitted to Grants.gov by February 28, 2017.
Despite Contract Delay, FirstNet Says It's Ready to Move Swiftly Once Vendor Is Chosen
December 20, 2016
At a recent board meeting, FirstNet officials laid out a 100-day plan that indicates a number of strategic milestones the authority plans to hit once an award is made. While the nation’s first high-speed data network for first responders has been delayed by legal challenge, program managers say they are ready to hit the ground running as soon as the starter gun fires.
“We have the rigor in place. We are an up-and-running organization just as Congress intended,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said at the organization’s quarterly meeting held Dec. 14. “We are here and it’s done, and we are ready.”
FirstNet cybersecurity demands just one area that potential opt-out states should weigh carefully
December 20, 2016
Many advocates of the opt-out alternative to FirstNet cite the option as a way for a state to exert greater control over the public-safety broadband network within its borders. There is no doubt that an opt-out decision would create much more work for a state, but the level of operational control may not be the kind that proponents envisioned. Governors likely will be missing key FirstNet data point, making opt-out decision even more precarious
It was only a brief statement during last week’s FirstNet board meeting, but it is one that governors should heed as they prepare to decide whether to accept FirstNet’s deployment plan or to pursue the “opt-out” alternative, which requires the state to build and operate the radio access network (RAN) within its borders for the next 25 years.
“We have been very vocal that we are going to be unrelenting and unforgiving in our approach to an examination of cyber for states as they consider alternative courses,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said. “[State officials will] be able to dive deeply into that portal and see what the gold standard will be that they are going to have to match.”
NIST Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program Funding Opportunity
Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) is excited to announce the release of the NIST Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program Funding Opportunity to rapidly accelerate research and development related to public safety broadband communications. Through this opportunity, PSCR anticipates awarding up to $30,000,000 in grants and cooperative agreements by May 2017. The funding opportunity is open to all non-Federal entities. In addition, applicants are strongly encouraged to partner with public safety organizations to create innovative and impactful proposals. For more information, please visit PSCR's grants page at https://www.nist.gov/ctl/pscr/funding-partnerships/grants
FirstNet Outlines Details Expected in State Plans, Information Portals
December 14, 2016
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) outreach and consultation team outlined in more detail the exact information that will be included in state plans and how that information will be delivered to state officials after a contract is awarded.
FirstNet officials offered the information during committee meetings Dec. 13, and it was provided to state point of contacts (SPOC) during their fall meeting last month.
President-elect Donald Trump is not the only one with a first 100 days plan.
FirstNet, the first responder interoperable public safety communications network created in the spectrum auction law and funded through auctions, has outlined the first 100 days of its public-private partnership—a private company will have access to the network's spectrum except in times of emergency, when first responders have first dibs.
December 13, 2016
FirstNet’s technical staff has established a draft set of network policies that will be followed throughout the United States, whether the radio access network (RAN) is deployed by FirstNet’s nationwide contractor or by opt-out states, FirstNet officials said today. “These [policies] constitute the basis for network interoperability,” FirstNet CTO Jeff Bratcher said during the technology portion of FirstNet’s board committee meetings. “They provide the development and operations framework for the network partner and also establish the criteria for the FCC and the NTIA to evaluate opt-out states’ alternative plans.”
FirstNet’s Uncertainty Increases with RFP Protest, Changing Administration
December 05, 2016
As we approach the end of 2016 and the February five-year birthday of the legislation that created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), there was optimism that an imminent announcement of the selection of a national partner would turn the promise of a national public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) into a reality.
Following the mid-October announcement from pdvWireless, one of the three acknowledged competitors in the process, that it had been eliminated from consideration, hope remained that a final choice was coming soon. Nov.1, the targeted date, came and went without such news.
Key Considerations for the FirstNet State Plan
December 6, 2016
FirstNet has been consulting with the states and territories on the development of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network. As a key next step, FirstNet will use the feedback received and data collected to develop State plans for deploying the Radio Access Network (RAN) in each state. Between now and the delivery of the State Plans, the FirstNet consultation and state plans teams will continue to work with the states to prepare them for reviewing both the draft and final state plans. Meantime, to assist the states in the process, FirstNet has developed the following tutorial to highlight some of the major steps and considerations leading up to the Governor’s decision on the State Plan. This tutorial also identifies examples of the key officials and advisors that could be involved in the review process to ensure the Governor is prepared to make the most informed decision about deploying the RAN their state.
View Key Considerations for the FirstNet State Plan Video