Glenn Bischoff, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher for Urgent Communications, recently wrote an article entitled “Looking back on the most compelling stories of 2012“. The article reflects on the biggest stories of 2012 related to public safety communications. Bischoff reflects on:
- The passing of the Middle Class Tax Relief Act, which created the national public safety broadband network (NPSBN).
- The June derecho storm in the eastern half of the U.S. This power causing 911 networks to go down which led to Federal investigation into the preparedness and reliability of the nation’s emergency calling system.
- Tangible steps were taken for text 911 as the nation’s biggest 4 Carriers Agree to Begin Text-to-9-1-1 by May 2014.
- The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) development of a firefighter-location technology that can pinpoint firefighters not only along the X and Y-axis, but also along the Z (vertical) axis.
- DHS also stepped forward with a thin-battery material that can be integrated into first responder’s clothing, opening up several possibilities in terms of the gear that can be used in the field.
- Healthcare broadened its horizons as broadband became more available in rural areas and sparked a concept known as community paramedicine, which promises to dramatically improve healthcare.
These were all big milestones that were nice to revisit before moving forward into 2013, but there were 2 other major stories that we at Corner Alliance thought should be mentioned as well.
- Hurricane Sandy was major story for several reasons. The thousands of lives it disrupted, the billions of dollars in damage, the timing (as it happened days before the national election), the fights in Congress that continue over relief packages, global warming debates, and the list goes on. What can easily get lost in the shuffle but could prove monumental in the world of emergency communications moving forward is what Hurricane Sandy demonstrated about commercial carriers. Following the storm, the FCC reported that about 25% of commercial cell sites were not operational while public safety agencies maintained communications during and immediately following Sandy. This would appear to be a positive for those in public safety, except FirstNet has repeatedly advocated leveraging commercial cellular networks to build the NPSBN, leaving many public safety officials to warn that the risks associated with relying on commercial infrastructure alone far outweigh whatever financial benefits it offers (Khan: U.S. needs a private public safety LTE network).
FirstNet Takes Notice of Public Safety Concerns
- With the passage of the Middle Class Tax Relief in February, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) was established to oversee the design and build-out of the network. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board of directors was announced on August 20, 2012 at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference.
- In FirstNet’s inaugural meeting on September 25, 2012 Craig Farrill, FirstNet Board Member, gave a presentation discussing the use of existing commercial infrastructure for the public safety broadband network. This system design would supposedly drive down costs associated with the build-out of the network and allow for a shortened timeline for implementation.
- What will be important to remember as we move into 2013 are the 6 major things that occurred between the first and second FirstNet board meetings.
- Following Mr. Farrill’s presentation many became concerned about the lack of input from public safety. Following the presentation the National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA) issued a notice of inquiry for the public to comment on how FirstNet should be set up. This NOI provided the avenue in which public safety stakeholders could voice their displeasure, concerns, reservations, and suggestions regarding the proposed paths FirstNet could take.
- Members of FirstNet took visits to BTOP recipients that desire to deploy early networks
- The creation of a user advocacy officer position, which is temporarily being filled by Jeff Johnson until a permanent hire is made.
- A visit by FirstNet board members to New York City communications offices in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which allowed non-public safety members to better understand first responders’ need for a resilient network.
- Harlin McEwen was selected to head the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). During the initial meeting on Sept. 25, the FirstNet board passed a resolution designating a subgroup of SAFECOM as the PSAC. PSAC’s mission is to help FirstNet create and sustain crucial dialogue with government and first responder leaders on how best to deploy the nationwide system. As a longtime advocate for public safety, McEwen was an encouraging choice for public safety stakeholders.
- Finally, during FirstNet’s 2nd meeting a overall summary of the comments filed under NTIA’s NOI were presented to FirstNet to make sure the board understood the concerns and hesitation being voiced by the public safety community.
2013 will be a vital year in determining the success of the NPSBN. As funding becomes available to states and local decisions are made, the NPSBN success will continue to hinge on maintaining an open honest dialogue between those designing the network and those who will use it everyday.