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Verizon Launches Public Safety Advisory Council Event Series

Building on prior investments in the market for first responder technology, Verizon is giving public safety agencies a chance to hear from its advisory council on pressing issues in the field.

The last two years competing in the market for first responder tech have been busy for Verizon. The company launched its own designated network for first responders in March 2018, within two days of the major competing network, the government-led FirstNet. It started a maker space in Washington, D.C., for 5G-capable first response tech later that year, then formed a First Responder Advisory Council in 2019 to guide the development of new products.

Citing a rapidly changing environment for first responders, Verizon announced last week that the council will host a series of informational meetings and events aimed at public safety agencies.

The first and only event scheduled so far is a panel discussion from 4-5:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Aug. 18, although Verizon’s news release said this would be the first of many. The announcement said the subject of the discussion will be priorities, strategies and next steps related to “public safety in 2020,” citing radical and significant changes in public safety within the past six months. The event will be a virtual town hall with seven of the council’s 14 members, led by council chair and former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, hosted by Verizon Vice President of Business Development for Public Sector Maggie Halbach and moderated by Mike Mason, a senior vice president and chief security officer for Verizon and formerly an executive assistant director with the FBI.

The discussion is open to all public safety agencies, whether they’re Verizon customers or not.

“The mission of public safety agencies … has not changed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but everything else about their jobs has been altered in the last six months,” said Andrés Irlando, senior vice president and president of public sector at Verizon, in a statement. “At such a critical time for our nation, and knowing what a tremendous resource the Verizon First Responder Advisory Council has been to us internally, it made perfect sense to make its members’ expertise, insights and wealth of experience available directly to our customers and all first responders across the country.”

Besides Bratton, the council consists of veteran or retired members of various public safety agencies, including police and fire departments, the Drug Enforcement Agency, attorney general offices and local homeland security or emergency management divisions.

Verizon’s financial interest in the first-responder market over the past couple years is at least twofold. For one thing, the market itself is ripe with innovation as advances in AI, video feeds, radar and other tools create new possibilities. Besides that, first responder tech has been a testing field for burgeoning 5G technology, in which Verizon has a vested and growing interest, including as a competitor of FirstNet to be the nation’s primary network provider for public safety agencies. Innovation in one area can drive innovation in another, which may have factored into Verizon launching the 5G First Responder Lab in D.C. to build 5G-capable tech for first responders. The maker space wrapped up its third cohort earlier this year, although a fourth has yet to be announced.