FirstNet or the First Responder Network Authority, is a multi-billion dollar effort to construct a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network, which is meant to provide a seamless, high-speed (LTE), coverage for emergency responders and 911 callers. It is moving forward – perhaps at a turtle’s pace, but that might not be a bad thing, provided that it’s deployed in a clever and comprehensive way. A report by the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) stated that the FirstNet effort is a “herculean undertaking for all levels of government” and “perhaps the largest national infrastructure project since the interstate highway system.”
According to a recent NASCIO survey, about 22 states have begun collecting data that will be used to effectively deploy the infrastructure, and at least ten states have already moved onto phase II – funding by State and Local Government Implementation Grant Programs (SLIGP.). Additionally a pocket of the mid-western states (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin) have begun to proactively collect data for regional collaboration.
Another critical component of the FirstNet initiative involves states spearheading education and outreach activities, and about 70% of them have begun to address and plan for this.
The FirstNet Summit was held at the 2013 Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) Global Expo in New Orleans of this year. It addressed such issues such as: what is the role of the state or public safety officials, how can individual carriers contribute to the process, and what opportunities exist in rural America? It also considered RFPs for construction, maintenance and operations of the build-out, funding and best practices for network security.