Chairman Blackburn gavels in to begin the hearing, “Oversight of FirstNet: States Perspectives”
WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), held a hearing today checking in on the progress made in the deployment of FirstNet, the first nationwide, interoperable broadband public safety network.
Chairman Blackburn kicked things off by highlighting the importance of FirstNet to help first responders and make communities safer, “A lot of work at this committee went into reviewing the recommendations from the 9/11 commission on how to better prepare our first responders in times of crisis. Interoperability has long been a challenge for our state and local authorities, and in the wake of the recent natural disasters they have faced, its importance is as clear as ever.”
Michael Poth, CEO of FirstNet, provided an update on deployment progress, “Since its inception, FirstNet has taken the necessary steps to build an organization, execute a vigorous consultation and outreach strategy, develop and release a comprehensive request for proposals (RFP), select an experienced and proven wireless industry leader for a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership, and lay the groundwork for a successful deployment of the NPSBN. Much has been accomplished. However, as it is with any unprecedented undertaking, every step forward presents new challenges and requires identification of innovative solutions.”
In his testimony, Brian Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security for the Commonwealth of Virginia, discussed why his state became the first in the nation to opt-in to FirstNet, “The decision to opt-in was based on the desire to ensure as quickly as possible that public safety is able to leverage the benefits of priority and preemption service, as well as to prevent costs to the Commonwealth and move forward with the collaborative process of building the network to meet the Virginia-specific needs of public safety.”
John Stevens, Statewide Interoperability Coordinator for New Hampshire, brought to light concerns about the manner in which FirstNet approaches states who develop alternative plans, saying, “We therefore implore this Committee to hold FirstNet accountable and take steps to ensure that FirstNet provides a full explanation of the numbers it has released, complies with the intent of the law, and provides a fair pathway for each state to make its opt-in/opt-out decision free of undue duress.”
Chris Sambar, Senior Vice President of AT&T, noted the role of the company to make FirstNet a success, “As part of its commitment, AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the life of the FirstNet contract to build, operate and maintain the network. AT&T will connect FirstNet to its world class telecommunications network valued at over $180 billion, with a wireless network reaching 99.6% of the U.S. population. … I am also proud that AT&T will support FirstNet with its world-class Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) Team. This team, which we established over 25 years ago, has a single mission: to recover AT&T voice and data service in areas affected by a disaster.”
Robert LeGrande, Founder of the Digital Decision LLC, described goals for FirstNet to reach its full potential, “The FirstNet Board and Staff have done a good job in recognizing the potential for leveraging commercial investments and innovation to secure public safety’s future. But, we must be sure that FirstNet leverages all of the benefits that a competitive communications marketplace has to offer. And, we must ensure that it achieves the primary goal that Congress set out to achieve – effective, reliable, and interoperable communications for first responders.”
For more information on today’s hearing, including a background memo, witness testimony, and archived webcast, click HERE.