FirstNet board OKs second notice seeking comment

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board is looking for more feedback as it sets out to create the first nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) based on a single national network architecture.

The FirstNet board approved for release a second public notice seeking comment on key interpretations of FirstNet's enabling legislation, including public-safety-customer, operational and funding considerations related to states or territories assuming responsibility for radio access network (RAN) deployment.

"We have been laser-focused on finalizing our approach to the request for proposals process that will form the basis of our nationwide network deployment," FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson said in a press release. "Consultation on the complex issues in this Second Notice, combined with upcoming opportunities to receive feedback on the request for proposals itself and our ongoing state and local consultations nationwide, create fundamental building blocks for our approach."

The Second Notice seeks feedback from all interested stakeholders, including public-safety professionals from local, regional, tribal and state jurisdictions and vendors, on a number of preliminary interpretations regarding key provisions of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, including technical requirements for equipment to be used on the network and the nature and application of FirstNet network policies.

Feedback received by the board will inform FirstNet's implementation of the network in all states and territories, including those with substantial rural areas, the board said.

Meanwhile, Swenson is scheduled to testify Wednesday before a Senate Commerce Committee session titled "Three Years Later: Are We Any Closer To A Nationwide Public Safety Wireless Broadband Network?," reports Urgent Communications.

According to the Senate Commerce website, the hearing will "examine the progress of FirstNet's nationwide wireless broadband network for emergency responders." Witnesses will discuss progress and challenges in building the network, as well as FirstNet's future as a self-funding entity as required by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.

Besides Swenson, other witnesses scheduled to testify during the hearing include Bruce Andrews, deputy secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce; Mark Goldstein, director of the physical-infrastructure team in the Government Accountability Office (GAO); Todd Zinser, inspector general for the U.S. Department of Commerce; and Chief Keith Bryant, president and chairman of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

The inspector general issued a report in December that faulted FirstNet's board members for failing to adhere to financial-disclosure rules and not having adequate protections to monitor for conflicts of interest. The report included several recommendations to FirstNet, which is an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, itself a part of the Department of Commerce.

After the report was issued, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said that it "raises a number of concerns with FirstNet," and he vowed to hold the first-ever hearing on FirstNet early this year.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Urgent Communications article
- see this Government Technology commentary

Related articles
FirstNet holds 'kick-off' consultation to bring federal agencies into the fold
Lawmakers call for hearing on FirstNet after IG report lists public disclosure concerns
FirstNet taken to task over conflict-of-interest procedures, financial disclosures
FirstNet aims to release final RFP by end of 2015
FirstNet RFI, public notice lay groundwork for network procurement

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