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News Articles and Resources

Experts: States play key role in coordinating FirstNet, next-gen 911 efforts (8/22) – Fed Scoop
As states look to team up on the development of a nationwide broadband network for first responders and move to “next-generation” 911 services, IT shops have a key role to play in coordinating these complex projects, according to a panel of public safety communications experts.  With the First Responder Network Authority (commonly known as FirstNet) inching closer to starting work on a nationwide network for public safety workers, and more 911 call centers working to upgrade their capabilities, the IT leaders on hand at the National Association of State Technology Directors’ annual conference called on state IT departments to start opening the channels of communication with their first responders.

NTIA Officials Outline FirstNet Opt-Out Timeline (8/18) – Mission Critical Communications
Officials with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Office of Public Safety Communications (OPSC) detailed a potential timeline for states that choose to opt out of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).  The opt-out timeline begins with FirstNet’s delivery of state plans. At that point, each state’s governor will have up to 90 days to decide whether to participate in FirstNet’s contract to build the nationwide broadband network. If a state chooses not to participate in the FirstNet contract, it will be responsible for building and maintaining its own radio access network (RAN) that will tie into the FirstNet core.
Swenson, Johnson, Takei reappointed to the FirstNet board (8/18) – Urgent Communications
FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson, Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson and board member Teri Tekai have been reappointed to serve additional three-year terms on the board of FirstNet, according to an announcement today from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.  Like Swenson, Johnson and Takei, FirstNet board member Barry Boniface’s current term will expire, but Boniface “decided not to see reappointment to the FirstNet board due to the demands of his business,” according to a U.S. Department of Commerce press release. Boniface has agreed to continue serving on the FirstNet board until the end of the year or until a replacement is named, whichever comes first, according to the press release.

Rivada Networks looks to tap new technology to bolster FirstNet (7/13) – RCR Wireless News
The First Responder Network Authority was provided with the 700 MHz D-Block license and more than $6 billion in funding from the FCC’s AWS-3 spectrum auction to entice firms into a new partnership. This effort has drawn interest from a number of established carriers, including Verizon Wireless and AT&T, as well as new entities.  One of those entities is Rivada Networks.  Rivada last month unveiled vendor partners lined up to help the company in its efforts to build out a nationwide public safety network should it win a part or all of the FirstNet bidding process. Rivada said partners include Harris Corporation, Ericsson, Nokia, Intel Security, Fujitsu Network Communications and Black & Veatch

FirstNet must balance transparency, security goals during upcoming talks with state, public-safety officials (7/5) – Urgent Communications
FirstNet officials have promised considerable outreach to states and public safety as deployment plans for each state and territory are finalized and distributed. But balancing the desire for transparency and the need for security during these processes could prove challenging.

Ohio first responders test Sonim smartphones during training exercise (6/30) – Government Security News – OH
The State of Ohio, in conjunction with Greene County, constructed a three-site, fully functional public safety LTE network as part of a week-long training exercise for the first responders of Beavercreek Township, Ohio.  To support the exercise, Sonim Technologies, maker of the world's toughest mobile phones, was chosen to provide 10 Band Class 14-ready XP7 smartphones. Sonim is the first and only Tier One smartphone manufacturer to release a commercially available smartphone platform that enables first responders to get broadband access on both the FirstNet Band Class 14 spectrum and on commercial mobile networks.

Poth indicates that FirstNet will have final say whether to execute contractor award (6/30) – Urgent Communications
An evaluation team is in the process of selecting the best proposal to build the much-anticipated nationwide public-safety broadband network, but FirstNet ultimately will decide whether to execute a contract with the selected offeror team, FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said during today’s open board meeting. Under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)—the rules that FirstNet has opted to use in this procurement—details regarding the bidding cannot be disclosed by the government, including who is on the team evaluating the proposals and selecting the best bid. Theoretically, the contracting officer could select a bidder other than the one chosen by the evaluation team, but that “rarely, if ever” happens, according to a Beltway source familiar with the process.

If FirstNet is not the answer, does someone have a better alternative? (6/23) – Urgent Communications
It’s a rumor that started within a week of Congress passing the legislation that created FirstNet, and it’s one that just won’t die, particularly during in the heated political environment that exists during the months leading up to a presidential election.  There are multiple versions with different wrinkles offered, but the basic premise is fairly straightforward: Republicans will want to kill FirstNet quickly, if the party gains control of the presidency and Congress in November.  It was an argument that made sense for quite some time, especially if you believe in partisan politics and the notion that this FirstNet is perceived as a Democratic initiative.

Senate Hearing Highlights FirstNet Concerns from States, Inspector General (6/21) – Mission Critical Communications
A National Governors Association (NGA) employee and a Department of Commerce (DoC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) official outlined concerns their organizations have with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) during a Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet hearing June 21. The concerns are mostly related to cost and coverage. Jeffrey McLeod, director of the NGA Homeland Security and Public Safety Division Center for Best Practices, said governors’ main concerns lie in three areas — coverage, cost and consultations. He also said opting out of the network is a “false choice” for many states.

FirstNet is coming. Are you prepared? (5/16) – Urgent Communications
FirstNet is inching its way toward creating a nationwide wireless broadband network that will vastly improve the delivery of public safety services to 320 million people. With numerous trials underway from Los Angeles to New Jersey and an RFP published, many of the public-safety officials we’ve spoken with are anxious to get started, but they’re just not sure where to begin.  Part of the challenge of constructing FirstNet is understanding what exactly needs to be built into a wireless network that will ensure FirstNet-level performance. Rather than taking a “wait and see” approach, a number of states and municipalities are beginning to map out their coverage now. They’re doing this by pinpointing current needs and identifying what areas need to be supplemented or overlapped by FirstNet. Because tower infrastructure is expensive to deploy, states and agencies that know what and where their requirements are will help ensure everyone gets the most utility out of this joint investment.
FirstNet Completes 55 SPOC Engagement Meetings in 4 Months (5/13) – Mission Critical Communications
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) completed 55 state single points of contact (SPOC) engagement meetings between January and April. The meetings re-engaged FirstNet officials with the SPOCs and their leadership teams to lay the groundwork for the remainder of consultation activities in 2016 and future state plans.  “Our objectives for the rest of 2016 are to work together to prepare for both the governor’s decision on radio access network (RAN) deployment in each state or territory and on the network adoption decision that will be made by public-safety users,” said Dave Buchanan, FirstNet director of consultation, in a blog.

FedScoop 4/12: FirstNet extends bid deadline two weeks
Firms that want to bid to deploy a public safety broadband network across the U.S. have an extra two and a half weeks to do so, the First Responder Network Authority, known as FirstNet, announced Monday. The deadline for responses to the request for proposals issued by FirstNet back in January has been extended from May 13 to May 31, the authority said in a statement.

FirstNet Gains Momentum (3/29) – RCR Wireless News
Even a year ago, FirstNet still seemed largely theoretical as it went through the planning process. But, with the agency having released its request for proposal in January, and expecting to make an award of its $6.5 billion for the design and construction of the network in early November, the focus of vendors has sharpened considerably even if they don’t plan to bid for the overall contract. That new level of interest and expectation, and new energy around the practicalities of a separate wireless broadband network for public safety, was evident at last week’s International Wireless Communications Expo in Las Vegas.

FirstNet highlights opportunities to communicate with potential offerors during conference (3/11) – Urgent Communications
FirstNet yesterday hosted its final public meeting to address questions about its request for proposal (RFP) process for the deployment and operation of a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), but bidders will have opportunities to continue asking questions and receive feedback until the contract is awarded, according to FirstNet officials.  FirstNet Contracting Officer Terrie Callahan provided additional details about how communications would be conducted with offerors that could result in revised bids after initial proposals are submitted by the May 13 deadline, citing a clause in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).
Motorola CEO Confirms FirstNet RFP Participation, Discusses Financial Results (2/23) – Mission Critical Communications
Motorola Solutions Chairman and CEO Greg Brown said the public-safety equipment supplier will participate in the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) request for proposals (RFP). “We plan on participating,” Brown said. “We view LTE (Long Term Evolution) and FirstNet to be additive to our LMR business.” Brown did not elaborate on how the vendor would participate or what companies it might team with on the RFP. The comments came during the question and answer portion of Motorola’s earnings conference call Feb. 22.

FirstNet Achieves Major Milestone Towards Nationwide Network For First Responders (2/5) – Homeland Security Today
House lawmakers held a hearing earlier this week to discuss the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) progress in the deployment of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) in light of its recent Request for Proposal (RFP), which marked a major step forward in FirstNet’s efforts to modernize communications for first responders.  “This is a significant step for the network because it is the formal structured process that will select our partner who will deploy the NPSBN,” said TJ Kennedy, President of FirstNet, at a hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

Congress watching FirstNet security, state opt-ins (2/2) – Source: FCW
The First Responder Network Authority is awaiting industry responses to its request for proposals to build a nationwide public safety communications system for federal, state and local law enforcement and other first responders. At a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Communications and Technology Subcommittee, Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) noted that "the die is cast." Still, lawmakers charged with oversight of the FirstNet project have expressed concerns about state participation, funding and cybersecurity, among others.
Want to keep track of FirstNet’s progress? Here are some key dates, milestones to remember (1/28) – Source: Urgent Communications
It has been two weeks since FirstNet released its final request for proposal (RFP), which is designed to solicit proposals from bidding teams—known as offerors in the RFP documents—that are willing to build and operate a nationwide public-safety broadband network during the next 25 years. The good news: the RFP has been released, almost four years after Congress passed the legislation creating FirstNet. Even better news: Two weeks after the RFP’s release, there have been no signs of potential offerors becoming disenchanted with the project; in fact, at least two entities—AT&T and Rivada Networks—have expressed a high level of interest in pursuing the much-anticipated network.

Some things we don’t know yet that could impact FirstNet’s ultimate success (updated) (1/12) – Source: Urgent Communications
In last week’s column, we examined some of the key questions that potential bidders hope will be answered in FirstNet’s request for proposal (RFP)—a document that was scheduled to be released this week but has not been announced yet. But, as powerful as FirstNet is, it does not control all aspects of this project, even in some areas that are very important to potential bidders and other stakeholders, including public-safety agencies. Some important items fall outside the scope of the FirstNet mission established by Congress in 2012, while others are the jurisdiction of other federal agencies or the oversight responsibility simply has not been determined yet.
New Emergency Responders Radio System Tested for First Time During Rose Parade (1/12) – Source: Pasadena Now
First responders assigned to monitor the safety and security of residents and visitors during the 127th Rose Parade in Pasadena were equipped with handheld devices that looked pretty much like smartphones but worked with a lot more advanced features. Motorola Solutions, which provided the devices and the system itself – called the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) – is reporting that this first real-world demonstration of the infrastructure at the Pasadena Rose Parade was successful.