FirstNet Tech Lab

FirstNet Showcases Tech Lab for its Board and Committee Members in Boulder

The First Responder (Public Safety) Network Authority also known as FirstNet is an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce whose mission is to provide law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency service first responders with a nationwide, highspeed, broadband network dedicated to public safety. FirstNet was created by the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Section 6204 with a mandate to interconnect public safety wireless infrastructure nationwide by 2022.

The program suffered early bureaucratic setbacks but is now on track. A private-public partnership has been established to deploy the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). On March 28, 2017, the FirstNet board of directors authorized Mike Poth, its Chief Executive Officer, to award a contract to procure the NPSBN. On March 30, 2017, FirstNet formally announced its partnership with AT&T to build the NPSBN. On September 14, 2017, the FirstNet Board of Directors led by its Chair, Sue Swenson, convened in Boulder, Colorado, for a quarterly meeting, open to the public. The initial topic focused on public safety responses to regional emergencies caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma and wildfires in the northwest. The commitment to support public safety efforts in the field was a major theme throughout the day.

In November 2016 FirstNet opened its technical headquarters in Boulder, a state-of-the-art Innovation Lab for testing of network public safety functionality and features. In conjunction with AT&T and the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Program, the lab was recently loaded with high tech equipment to assist in the mission to provide public safety the best communications and information sharing capabilities for emergency responders in the world. Tools in development include frequency specific user devices, software applications, network services, and priority access features. By the time the network is cutover to public safety mission critical push-to-talk capabilities an operational preemption of the network during times of emergency will be in place. The lab will continue to perform research and development support for the public safety broadband development community. Collaboration with and accountability of the lab to first responders in the field was emphasized as crucial to program success.

In June 2017 FirstNet delivered a plan specific to each of fifty-six states and territories. States were allowed six weeks to provide feedback comments to FirstNet. In mid-September, the governors were issued official notice of a ninety-day shot clock. The states and territories each have until mid-December to accept FirstNet’s plan or opt-out with their own plan to build the NPSBN in their territory. States that don’t respond by mid-December will be considered to have opted-in to the FirstNet plan. Where FirstNet builds the network, it will be accountable to the state for achieving network standards. States that build their own networks are accountable to the federal government regarding achievement of network standards. As of this date, twenty-four states and territories have opted-in to have FirstNet build their networks. In the meantime, AT&T is responsible to implement a commercial core for NPSBN redundancy by March 2018.

Sept. 29, 2017 John Rowe, Colorado Wireless Association Regulatory Chairman (2017)

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