The National Emergency Number Association today expressed optimism about the prospects for public safety broadband after Acting Secretary of Commerce Dr. Rebecca Blank announced the composition of the FirstNet governing Board. FirstNet is an independent agency within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, formed to manage the deployment and operation of a nation-wide wireless broadband network for first responders.
"FirstNet is charged by Congress with ensuring that first responders across the nation will have access to a nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband network for public safety communications. NENA applauds this first step and recognizes the potential benefits FirstNet holds for emergency responders. NENA looks forward to working cooperatively with FirstNet and all stakeholders to enable seamless interoperability between FirstNet and Next Generation 9-1-1 systems.” Said NENA CEO Dr. Brian Fontes.
The authorization and funding for FirstNet were provided in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act passed by Congress in early 2012. The statute authorizes up to $7 billion for broadband deployment, and requires FirstNet to utilize commercial equipment and technology to the maximum extent economically feasible, and to interoperable with 9-1-1 call centers.
"I'm confident that the public safety members of the board will work together to improve communications capabilities for all public safety services including 9-1-1, as required by the statute. Having a two-time state CIO is a real coup: Teri Takai served with distinction in Michigan and California. The trend right now is for public safety communications to move under the larger umbrellas of state IT departments, and this appointment will help FirstNet users manage through that transition. And the private-sector members are especially exciting, because they have real-world experience building successful mobile networks based on commercial technology. As public safety and commercial providers partner to bring FirstNet to reality, this partnership presents an opportunity for real, long-term cost savings," Fontes said.