Who Will Help Set Up the National Public Safety Network?

Commerce Department issues wish list for board members who will guide a national broadband framework for first responders.

Federal legislation earlier this year made it a national priority to build a wireless broadband network that will enable true interoperability among first responders and public safety officials across the country. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, signed by President Obama on Feb. 22, 2012, set aside $7 billion in federal grants to make the network a reality.

The act also established “FirstNet”, an independent authority within NTIA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. NTIA is an agency of the Department of Commerce.

FirstNet issued a “recruitment prospectus” for its 15-member Board of Directors on Tuesday, May 22. The Homeland Security Secretary, U.S. Attorney General and Office of Management and Budget director will all occupy permanent seats as board members.

“We’ve never been closer to realizing our goal of enabling public safety officers to take full advantage of the benefits of broadband technology,” Attorney General Eric Holder is quoted as saying in the report.

The remaining 12 members will be selected by Commerce Secretary John Bryson, based on a number of criteria. Members need expertise in at least one of the following areas: public safety and emergency response, technical broadband and public safety communications knowledge, commercial telecommunications networks and successfully funding telecommunications networks.

At least three members must represent government, and another three must bring direct experience in the public safety field. The prospectus further stipulates that board members should come from all over the country, from both urban and rural areas.

“We are looking for executive-level leaders to pave the path forward for a successful public-private partnership,” the prospectus reads.

The FirstNet Board of Directors will be charged with executing a nationwide first responder broadband network, by determining its policies and architecture, issuing bids and overseeing contracts and ensuring its solvency through leveraging current wireless infrastructure. The board is also expected to engage public safety entities at all levels of government, as well as ensure that the network is resilient and protected from potential threats. Many questions remain, such as how and if existing radio systems that have been regionally deployed will be brought into the national network.

The board will receive government executive-level pay for their days of service, and must make financial disclosures to avoid a potential conflict of interest. A typical term will be three years in length, although some of the first set of members’ terms will be shorter. Members may serve up to two full terms.

The document indicates the board will be seated by Aug. 20.