FirstNet is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. FirstNet is governed by a 15-member Board consisting of the Attorney General of the members appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. The FirstNet Board is composed of representatives from public safety; local, state and federal government; and the wireless industry.
Signed into law on February 22, 2012, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act created FirstNet. The law gives FirstNet the duty to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the first nationwide public safety broadband network. FirstNet will provide a single interoperable platform for public safety communications.
The FirstNet network is intended to improve citizen and responder safety and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency response through cutting edge broadband communications. Imagine a day when a single communications network can be used to dispatch EMS personnel, a medical helicopter, police officers, and fire personnel from different jurisdictions all at the same time, utilizing voice, video, and data at broadband speeds. FirstNet’s goal is for public safety personnel using the FirstNet network to be able to share applications, access databases, and provide better informed responses to incidents through integrated communications.
FirstNet’s goal is to provide a network with reliability and nationwide coverage that meets the needs of public safety personnel when they are on the job. FirstNet is also aiming to provide coverage solutions that let public safety “take the network along” to the destination in certain geographies. FirstNet plans to create a nationwide standard of service while affording localized customization and control.
When the FirstNet network launches, it will provide mission‐critical, high‐speed data services to supplement the voice capabilities of today’s Land Mobile Radio (LMR) networks. Initially, the FirstNet network is intended to be used for sending data, video, images and text. The FirstNet network is also intended to carry location information and eventually support streaming video. FirstNet plans to offer cellular voice communications such as Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) or other alternatives. The FirstNet network will not become a viable replacement for LMR until the availability of mission‐critical voice functionality that meets or exceeds the needs of public safety agencies.
FirstNet is responsible for ensuring the building of the network core. If a state decides to opt-in and accept FirstNet’s state plan, FirstNet will pay to build out the state’s radio access network (RAN) that will connect to the core. FirstNet will also be financially responsible for the network’s operations and maintenance.
Use of the FirstNet network is voluntary, and no public safety agency is required to participate. However, a network built for and dedicated to public safety agencies should provide a dependable and affordable user experience making FirstNet network an attractive choice for first responders.
FirstNet intends to offer services at a compelling and competitive cost to attract millions of public safety users and make the FirstNet network self‐sustaining. The costs for FirstNet’s services and devices have not yet been set.
FirstNet will be responsible for managing core operations and RAN operations for opt-in states. FirstNet also will enable robust identity management and authentication practices at the local level.
Each state/territory will participate in a series of meetings with FirstNet as part of the required consultation process. Once the state plan is finalized, and a governor opts into the network, the RAN will be built to the plan specifications. FirstNet cannot determine at this time when its services will be available to cities and parishes.
FirstNet works with and through designated State Single Points of Contact (SPOC) to consult with states, local communities, tribal governments and first responders to gather information, report on progress and identify requirements needed for developing the NPSBN construction and deployment plans.
FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee Participation
Government officials may also want to contact members of the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and particiapte in outreach discussions at professional association meetings and conferences. The mission of the PSAC is to assist FirstNet in carrying out its duties and responsibilities.Specifically, the PSAC:
Government officials can provide input to FirstNet via the outreach efforts coordinated by the SPOC in each state.
In September 2014, FirstNet issued a public notice seeking comments regarding its interpretation of network users (among other topics), including “public safety entity”, “secondary” and “other” network users. Sixty-three responses were received and FirstNet will review and analyze the comments before making a final determination. State and territory specific discussions regarding network users will continue during the consultation process.