The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) released a new report on June 11 revealing the results of a survey of state government progress around the First Responder Network (FirstNet), the nationwide high-speed wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety.

The report, The States and FirstNet: An Early Look from the State CIOs, found that more than 70 percent of states have a governance model for FirstNet in place and are looking to begin actively engaging in planning and outreach with key stakeholders. A few have gone even further and have aggressively begun collecting data. Meanwhile, almost a quarter of states are not engaged in active stakeholder outreach or are still working on initial governance and staffing issues.

“Building a nationwide public safety communications network is going to require a tremendous amount of planning, negotiation and collaboration across all levels of government,” said Darryl Ackley, co-chair of the NASCIO Broadband Committee and New Mexico CIO. “This report provides and early snapshot of how the states are approaching this extremely complex policy and infrastructure initiative.”

Overall, the survey found a broad variance in the maturity of state planning, ongoing outreach and governance strategies around FirstNet. It also revealed that state governments are taking varied approaches to planning and diverse strategies for engaging with federal and local partners, the federal FirstNet Authority, and other states.

“FirstNet is a major intergovernmental undertaking, with the need for states to do budgeting forecast, infrastructure and technology planning, and education and outreach to potential users,” said David Cagigal, NASCIO Broadband Committee co-chair and Wisconsin CIO. “How states approach this problem will have a significant bearing on whether we end up with a successful, sustainable model for this major national endeavor.”

FirstNet was created when the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act was signed into law in February 2012. The FirstNet Authority was tasked with building, operating and maintaining the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety in conjunction with the states. When completed, FirstNet will provide a single interoperable platform for emergency and daily public safety communications, fulfilling one of the last outstanding recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

FirstNet thanks NASCIO for conducting the survey, said FirstNet spokesman Ryan Oremland, and "is pleased that the report shows the states and territories are making measurable progress in key areas such as governance and planning, which are critical at this stage of developing the network," he said, adding that FirstNet looks forward to leveraging the results for its initial consultation efforts "and to continue to improve our outreach activities in the states and territories.

The report, he added, also provides significant value to the state Single Points of Contacts (SPOCs), as it includes best practices for governance, outreach, and coordination on FirstNet.

Justine Brown  |  Contributing Writer