View from the Top

FirstNet flying under the radar but ready to soar

by Urgent Communications contributor
Aug 09, 2016

While most August headlines are focused on the political arena during this election year, let’s not forget that an important public-safety initiative is quietly moving forward. This week, FirstNet will get another important staff member: Bill Schrier, chief technology officer of the Seattle police department.

By Patrick Flynn

August is supposed to be a quiet month, but it’s proving to be anything but. Congress has left town, yet political stories still dominate the headlines: who’s responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC), whether Congress should return to deal with the Zika virus, will presidential candidates back prominent party members in the fall elections, and should electronic voting systems be declared critical infrastructure to guard them from hacking?

Most of these issues deserve serious attention, but let’s not forget that an important public-safety initiative is quietly moving forward. This week, FirstNet will get another important staff member. Bill Schrier, chief technology officer of the Seattle police department, will come on board to help FirstNet build a set of services and functions that public-safety agencies need and then work to convince those agencies to subscribe.

As Schrier acknowledges in his recent blog, he was initially a skeptic of FirstNet, making his decision to join the organization all the more significant. It’s especially rewarding that, after questioning the viability of the program, Schrier can say, “FirstNet has now charted and is following the road to a complete success.” This is incredibly encouraging.

Indeed, the network holds tremendous promise to eliminate what Schrier calls “the mess created when thousands of agencies each build their own voice radio networks and then have to make them interoperate.” In a response to a comment on his blog, Schrier says cybersecurity is “job one” for FirstNet—another wise declaration.

I don’t want FirstNet to be a big headline right now, because often that means something’s gone wrong. I just want to stop and take note of the progress that’s been made in bringing this wireless broadband network for first responders to fruition. We’re close, and it’s about time. I’m optimistic that FirstNet will be one of the triumphs of this election year—regardless of what else happens.



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