FirstNet Is Delivering More Than We Imagined

By Anna M. Gomez


As Deputy Administrator at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), I was privileged to work with tremendously talented people in the Obama administration and Congress to develop the proposals that would lead to the creation of a single nationwide broadband network for public safety. Our goal was to ensure that first responders—whether at the local, state, or national level—could communicate, despite jurisdictional boundaries and especially during emergency situations, when access to reliable communications is most critical. We ultimately determined that first responders needed a single, dedicated broadband network that would not only achieve these goals, but also provide first responders with access to the most advanced communications technologies.

Congress then gave us—as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Spectrum Act)—the First Responder Network Authority (or FirstNet) and assigned 20 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band (Band Class 14) to achieve this vision. It is humbling and gratifying not only to watch our efforts come to fruition but to see a result that is even better than what we had imagined was possible.

As the proposal for a nationwide public-safety broadband network took shape, we identified numerous challenges, including:

How to deploy a nationwide network that would be sustainable for years to come without breaking the bank?
How to ensure that the network would work for public safety when and where they need it?
How to establish coverage in hard to reach areas?
And, most importantly, how to achieve these goals without making public safety wait a decade for results?
FirstNet sought to address these challenges by issuing an innovative, “objectives-based” request for proposals (RFP), in which it challenged potential bidders to meet 16 objectives developed with input from public safety—objectives that FirstNet deemed AT&T (disclosure: AT&T is a client of Wiley Rein), its winning bidder, satisfied.

This opinion article was written by Anna M. Gomez and appears in Urgent Communications dated September 14, 2017.

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Anna M. Gomez, partner in Wiley Rein’s Telecom, Media & Technology Practice, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.


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