By Bill Schrier
The APCO Broadband Committee was created in 2010 to help the association address the implications of emerging high-speed wired and wireless networks used by APCO members in comm centers and in the field alongside existing land-mobile radio (LMR) networks used by first responders. The most significant such network is the proposed nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN), which slowly began taking shape in 2010.
The Broadband Committee has been working for almost four years now and has produced a number of articles to help inform APCO’s official position as an organization, and also shape the development of the NPSBN. The game changed significantly in 2012 when congress authorized construction of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). Since then, the NPSBN—now often simply called FirstNet—is on a timeline for design, construction and operation in every state and territory of the U.S.
It is no longer sufficient for the Broadband Committee to operate solely as an internal entity. The committee needs to be more active in outreach, education and consultation with APCO chapters, members and other committees to support their involvement in making FirstNet a reality in their jurisdictions. To this end, the Broadband Committee has developed a multi-pronged approach to member outreach.
The first visible sign of this outreach is the article “Leveraging Assets,” published in the January 2014 edition of Public Safety Communications. This article stems from a Broadband Committee white paper developed in 2013 under the leadership of committee member Cynthia Wenzel Cole. It discusses how assets already owned by cities, counties and states—and already used for public safety communications—might be used and valued by FirstNet. Such assets might include radio sites, microwave and fiber networks. The article proposes an innovative approach and exchange model for cooperative use by FirstNet and local agencies.
In coming months you will see a variety of informative articles and stories from the Broadband Committee. These will include feature articles, a regular column in Public Safety Communications and a dedicated portion of the APCO International website. We’ll also be keeping a blog to highlight developing news about FirstNet and broadband, concentrating on the implications of that news for APCO members. We’ll cover the State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP), which will reach every state and territory, and how APCO members can become involved. We’ll also publicize the work of our subcommittees. One subcommittee is working to develop the public safety grade standard for communications sites to be used by FirstNet in its designs. Another subcommittee is working on how FirstNet will relate to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) and similar emerging technologies.
The Broadband Committee has always been active in developing abstracts and topics for the annual APCO Broadband Summit in May and the Annual Conference & Expo in August. With our online presence at www.apcointl.org, we’ll be able to highlight our committee activities at such conferences, and bring you additional papers and articles that are relevant to FirstNet.
We live in an exciting time in which technology is rapidly developing. For the first time in human history, the technology available to the average human being far surpasses that which is available to first responders, governments and businesses. Smartphones, tablet computers, smart eyeglasses, wearable video, downloadable apps and similar innovations are changing the lives of people across the U.S., and have vast implications for 9-1-1 agencies, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and other responders. The construction of the first-ever nationwide public safety wireless network is the essential “glue” that will enable APCO members and responders to use those innovations, thereby improving the safety of everyone living in the U.S.
The APCO Broadband Committee is a tremendous asset to the international association. We’re tracking many of these changes and their potential effects. Over the next year we hope to expose these developments both online and in print, and analyze how those developments might affect you as APCO members, your work and your careers.
BILL SCHRIER chairs the 2013–14 APCO Broadband Committee. He works as the FirstNet point of contact for the state of Washington. He also served as chief technology officer for the city of Seattle, one of the 21 jurisdictions formerly authorized to construct 4G public safety wireless broadband networks. He led those 21 jurisdictions as chair of the Operator Advisory Committee.