Policy

FirstNet Goes 50 for 50

Will be showcasing its tech at CES 12/29/2017 11:22 AM Eastern
Photo via First Responder Network Authority’s Flickr

With the Dec. 28 deadline for opting in to the state plan for FirstNet, the interoperable public service network went 50 for 50, with California coming in under the wire. California Gov. Jerry Brown made the announcement Dec. 28.

FirstNet is the government/private partnership (AT&T won the contract for the private part) to provide a broadband-based emergency communications network for first responders. It was proposed by the 9/11 Commission after communications problems among first responders during the 9/11 rescue efforts.

The network is funded by FCC spectrum auction proceeds, plus AT&T's investment. Back in March, AT&T won the contract for the multi-billion-dollar, 25-year contract to build and maintain FirstNet. It gets access to free wireless spectrum as part of the deal).

Related: House Kicks Tires on FirstNet Progress

The First Responder Network Authority (the government partner in FirstNet housed within the Department of Commerce) will again showcase the network at the CES show in Las Vegas (its second year) with a "Transforming the Future of Public Safety Communications" track Jan. 11.

The CES track will include the following panels: "Paving the Way for Connected Emergency Vehicles," looking at how emergency vehicles can be connected to tech in smart cities; "FirstNet Applications Ecosystem," which will highlight the FirstNet developer portal program*, and "The Internet of Life Saving Things (IoLST)" will look at how capturing data from everything from network-connected security and HVAC systems to fitness monitors and pacemakers can save seconds and lives in an emergency.

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A feisty-sounding Verizon, which launched its own effort to woo states to a competing core broadband communications net, pointed out last week that public safety entities within states can still choose their provider, and signaled this week, following the close of the Dec. 28 deadline, that it would still be looking to provide emergency communications resources.

"2017 generated significant dialogue regarding public safety communications. That was good and it drew increased attention to this critical customer segment," said Verizon in a statement. "2018 will be the year that actions and results speak louder than words. For Verizon, that means continued leadership in network excellence by launching our dedicated public safety network and continuing to lead the market with the introduction of products, services and other advanced technologies designed for first responders—all running on the country's only public safety-grade LTE network."

A Verizon spokesperson, pointing to a blog post by Don Brittingham, VP of public safety policy for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, added that "while all 50 states have opted into AT&Ts FirstNet Network, it does not mean that they have to use the AT&T FirstNet network. In fact, no state has indicated that they will be using the AT&T FirstNet network yet, besides opting into the program. And, FirstNet does not mandate that states or public safety agencies use a particular network provider."

*The FirstNet app store, which will provide first responders open standards apps for, among other things, situational awareness, mapping, field reporting and records management, wearables and forensics.

Apps can be submitted and receive either a "certified" or "reviewed" designation, depending on an app's "uptime availability, resiliency and scalability for simultaneous users," after which it can be published in the FirstNet app store.

(Photo via First Responder Network Authority’s Flickr. Image taken on Feb. 2, 2016 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 16x9 aspect ratio.)

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