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FirstNet board sets priorities for network reinvestment

The board of the First Responders Network Authority voted this week to outline its priorities for network reinvestment and continue engagement with first responders to shape the network over the coming yers.

FirstNet will develop a roadmap for the network that, according to the board, will be “driven by the needs of the public safety community and reflect industry trends.” AT&T is building out the nationwide network in Band 14 spectrum, after winning the $6.5 billion contract to do so.

The carrier said in early January that it has increased its LTE coverage area for the AT&T network and FirstNet by more than 50,000 square miles nationwide and boosted the potential customers covered by 1 million. The carrier said at the time that it had turned up Band 14 coverage in more than 500 markets, and that it had signed up more than 5,250 public safety agencies to FirstNet with more than 425,000 connections. CFO John Stephens said at a recent investor conference that figure is at about 450,000 connections, although he noted that many of the early customers were AT&T customers who migrated to become FirstNet customers. 

“As we strive to fully realize the promise of FirstNet, we are engaging with public safety to chart a path forward for the network,” said FirstNet Board Chair EdHorowitz in a statement. “Using their feedback, our roadmap will advance the network and guide our investments over the next several years and beyond.”

The board adopted a resolution which set out reinvestment principals for FirstNet, saying that network investments must:

  • Be derived from and benefit public safety
  • Maintain and advance the foundation of the network
  • Consider a balanced approach and provide value to public safety
  • Be fiscally responsible and reflect strong financial management

FirstNet is also developing a program so that first responders can experience the network for themselves, leveraging its FirstNet Innovation and Test Lab in Boulder, Colorado. The FirstNet Authority recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to help develop the program and add a focus on the use of rural broadband for emergency medical care and first response. FirstNet hopes to gain insights on how medical incidents are handled in rural communities and how technology can help improve responses, and work with UMMC to create demonstrations for the FirstNet experience program.

In related news, the FirstNet board also recently posted the job opening for its CEO position. Former CEO Mike Poth left the agency last fall for the private sector, and the CEO role has since been handled by acting CEO Ed Parkinson, who helped draft the initial bill that kicked off the effort to create FirstNet and was one of FirstNet’s first employees. FirstNet also has an upcoming opening for a board member due to an expiring term; applications for that seat are due by April 18.

Looking for more information on advances in public safety communications? Check out RCR’s recent editorial special report and webinar.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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