Signed into law in 2012, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).
The law gave FirstNet the mission to build, operate and maintain the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. The vision behind this effort is to provide a single interoperable platform for emergency and daily public safety communications.
While the project is in the process of developing a business plan and expanding its staff, it has been gaining tremendous traction these days.
For example, FirstNet recently held its first official “kick off” meeting, which involved more than a dozen federal departments and agencies. The main objectives of the meeting were to enhance federal agencies’ understanding of the project’s consultation process and to discuss future outreach and engagement between FirstNet and its federal partners.
In addition, officials at the Department of Homeland Security recently said that FirstNet could be a way to expand mission capabilities across its component agencies. According to this FCW story, DHS Deputy CIO Margie Graves, said, “We’re invested in FirstNet.”
DHS is not the only organization investing in and preparing for FirstNet. The city of Charlotte, NC, invested $11.2 million to upgrade the city’s public-safety communications infrastructure.
According to this StateTech story, a handful of communities – including Adams County, Colo., and the states of New Jersey and New Mexico – have licensed a wireless spectrum from FirstNet to build and pilot the public-safety broadband network.
One former congresswoman is also calling for more rapid action when it comes to implementing FirstNet. Mary Bono, who represented California’s 45th congressional district from 1998 to 2013, recently penned an op-ed for The Hill titled, “Let’s get FirstNet right now.”
“Congress should make the necessary policy changes to FirstNet so that its development and deployment can continue as soon as feasible,” said Bono in the op-ed. “Congress should also recognize that the price of the failure of building out these capabilities that will be needed in the next crisis will be difficult to explain to the American public.”
FirstNet is a highly valuable effort that is required for enhancing our national security stance. Based on all of this news and commentary, it seems that FirstNet is on the right path.