Is FirstNet Stalled?

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[Commentary] The First Responder Network Authority is now two years into its ten-year life. But it appears to be going through a reboot.

Are its efforts stalled? The short answer is no. The longer answer: maybe. My take on what’s going on:

  • I suspect there is an epic struggle going on within the Beltway for the control of FirstNet and its $7 billion in funding.
  • FirstNet’s already had a hiring scandal.
  • I think FirstNet has about 25 federal employees working for it. Their goal, I believe, is to have 100 or more full-time staff to do the work.
  • Eight cities, regions and states around the country were funded for about $400 million under the federal stimulus (technically the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, ARRA/BTOP, a mouthful) or similar grants to build public safety LTE networks compatible with FirstNet. Many of these networks were well along. But when FirstNet was created in 2012, NTIA abruptly stopped seven of these projects, restricting their construction until FirstNet could review them and authorize them to be completed.
  • In the fall of 2013 we in the states were hoping to have a lot of specifics in terms of materials and data requirements to conduct outreach and education for potential users in our states. We’re still waiting.

[Bill Schrier is senior policy advisor in the Office of the Chief Information Officer at the State of Washington]

Is FirstNet Stalled?