FirstNet promises to answer 670 questions on draft documents by July 1

If you haven't seen anyone from a certain First Responder Network Authority's (FirstNet) team in a while, there's probably a good reason. They've been busy answering hundreds of questions about its Special Notice and draft request for proposals (RFP) documents.

The documents were released April 27, when the organization opened them up for questions and comments. As of the comment deadline of May 27, FirstNet had received a whopping 670 questions from 53 distinct entities--44 from industry--on the documents.

If that sounds like a lot of "engagement" with industry, that's in part because FirstNet, which often portrays itself as a startup within the federal government, has made it a matter of policy to engage with industry, states and territories, police, firefighters and emergency medical responders. Early in its history, the organization came under fire for largely ignoring its constituents, namely public safety.  

"The questions we've received represent an investment on our stakeholders' behalf, and--as I stated a couple weeks ago at the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) conference in San Diego--FirstNet is looking to return that investment in kind," said James Mitchell, FirstNet senior program manager for operationsin a blog post.

In the first week of releasing the documents, FirstNet posted 95 responses. Since then, another 187 responses were posted, putting it close to the halfway point. "It's important to note that the authors of the RFP are the ones answering these questions, and that's by design," Mitchell said. "Each answer potentially represents a piece of what may go into the subsequent RFP. Moreover, we expect these answers to drive some of the comments and capabilities statements we will see coming in towards the end of July."

During a recent House Communications and Technology subcommittee hearing on FirstNet's progress, Stu Davis, the CIO for the state of Ohio, gave high marks to FirstNet Acting Executive Director T.J. Kennedy for transparency. While there were tensions in the beginning of FirstNet's history, the outreach, collaboration and communications have improved a lot over the past year and a half, he told lawmakers.

Kennedy has been FirstNet's acting executive director since April 2014. Three other positions also are filled by people in acting roles. FirstNet has been quiet about filling the roles, IWCE's Urgent Communications reported earlier this month. FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson told the publication that she didn't want to "hamstring" whoever becomes the next executive director by not allowing that person to hire key personnel.

FirstNet is shooting for a final RFP before the end of 2015, but executives are also saying that early 2016 may be more likely.

For more:
- see this FirstNet blog

Related articles:
Lawmakers cite rural, budget concerns in FirstNet House subcommittee hearing
Pilot project in central Minnesota strives to set model for FirstNet
Wireless carriers may hesitate to partner with FirstNet, analysts say
FirstNet aims to release final RFP by end of 2015

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