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FirstNet: Reviewing 2014 Progress and 2015 Priorities

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) took several important steps forward this year in our efforts to deploy a nationwide public-safety broadband network. As we look ahead to 2015 and beyond, I'm confident we're on the right path toward building both a successful organization and a broadband network that will serve America's firefighters, EMS providers and other emergency responders.

As a veteran fire chief, I know firsthand the benefits the network stands to offer in terms of improving communication, coordination and situational awareness during public-safety operations. While we're moving quickly to plan for and deploy the network, we also recognize the need to make sure first responders continue to be involved in the process.

To that end, FirstNet has worked to create opportunities for the public-safety community to help shape the design of the network in their states and territories.

Earlier this year, the FirstNet board of directors approved a strategic program roadmap to guide our efforts to coordinate with public safety and plan for the network. Key roadmap milestones include the development of a comprehensive network request for proposal and the state consultation process.

The roadmap also led us to finalize the charter for the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), which enables FirstNet to engage with a diverse group of public-safety and state, local and tribal government officials. IAFC Communications Committee Chair Chief Gary McCarraher is a member of the PSAC.

Also this year, FirstNet established a process for evaluating key environmental considerations around the deployment of the network and released a request for information (RFI) on a comprehensive network solution. The RFI included a 15-point draft statement of objectives that outlines the essential elements of the comprehensive network solution that we're contemplating for our acquisition strategy.

In addition, the board approved a public notice that will also help inform future RFPs and our policies and procedures going forward. We appreciate the feedback we received from the states, major public-safety associations, tribal interests, utilities, individuals and private-sector entities on the RFI and public notice.

FirstNet also moved forward on the consultation process in several states and Puerto Rico. Our consultation team participated in more than 100 engagements, involving 20,000 stakeholders in fiscal year 2014. We'll continue our nationwide outreach and consultation in 2015 to ensure coordination with the public-safety community in urban, rural and remote locations, including island states and tribal nations.

Collectively, these and other developments from the past year have helped foster an inclusive, transparent and productive dialogue between FirstNet and the public-safety community at all levels of government. We realize there's still a lot of work to be done and will continue to move quickly on several key activities in 2015.

Our priorities for next year include the development of a draft RFP for the network. Another top priority is the consultation process, which will help inform each state's and territory's plan for deploying the network.

To that end, I encourage IAFC members to become active in the process—if they haven't done so already—by participating in the association's FirstNet-related initiatives and those in your state or territory. Chief McCarraher is an excellent source of information about FirstNet.

In addition, each state and territory has established a single point of contact (SPOC) to coordinate FirstNet activities. I would encourage you to contact your SPOC to learn more about what your state or territory is doing and how you can contribute to the process.

In closing, it's important for the public-safety community to understand that this is your network. To help build it, FirstNet will continue to work with the fire and emergency services community, as well as other public-safety disciplines, to ensure that the network supports your communications goals in the context of new technologies and capabilities.

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