• Mr. Curtis Brown, Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, Commonwealth of Virginia
• Dr. Damon Darsey, Assistant Professor, University of Mississippi Medical Center
• Mr. Mark Goldstein, Physical Issues Director, Government Accountability Office
• Mr. Michael Poth, Chief Executive Officer, FirstNet
• Mr. Chris Sambar, Senior Vice President, AT&T
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
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Chairman Roger Wicker
Good morning. Today the Subcommittee meets for an update on FirstNet and its efforts to deploy the nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network. I am glad to convene this hearing with my good friend and colleague Ranking Member Schatz.
In 2012, Congress created the First Responder Network Authority to lead the development of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network in the United States. Following the communications failures that plagued recovery efforts during 9/11, and other national emergencies, including Hurricane Katrina, there was – and still is – a clear need for a reliable communications network to support the essential work of our public safety officials. Such a network would improve coordination among first responders across multiple jurisdictions and enhance the ability of first responders to provide life-saving emergency services quickly.
Last year, this Subcommittee convened for an update on FirstNet’s progress in establishing the public safety broadband network. At the time, we heard from FirstNet about how it intended to address the unique and individualized needs of each state in deploying the radio access network. FirstNet also reiterated its commitment to providing reliable coverage to rural areas. FirstNet assured members of the Subcommittee that user fees would be reasonably and affordably priced for public safety users – two issues of great importance to first responders around the country.
Since that time, much has happened.
- Last November, FirstNet opened an Innovation and Test Lab to develop and test new devices and applications that could be used by first responders on the future public safety network.
- In March, FirstNet formally selected AT&T as its industry partner to build, operate, and maintain the network over the next 25 years.
- And last month, FirstNet issued the initial state plans, which detail its deployment proposals for the radio access network in each of the 56 U.S. states and territories. States are now reviewing these plans and providing feedback to FirstNet and AT&T before the finalized plans are issued in the fall.
Today, I look forward to hearing more about each of these actions. I am eager to learn about FirstNet and AT&T’s network buildout plans and how they will leverage existing infrastructure assets within states to maximize coverage in rural areas and save taxpayer dollars. I hope our witnesses will also address the development of subscription pricing plans for public safety officials to use the network and how those plans are being developed in coordination with the states.
Likewise, I look forward to hearing about the resiliency of the network: in particular, how FirstNet and AT&T will harden and secure it from potential cyber threats, natural disasters, and other unplanned events. Additionally, I am interested in how FirstNet and AT&T will incorporate feedback from the states before the initial plans are finalized.
By any estimation, the development of this nationwide public safety broadband network is a challenge. But it is an important endeavor to ensure that first responders can fulfill their daily mission to save lives. At the center of this effort is the courage of our nation’s first responders, who put their lives on the line every day – in Mississippi and across the nation – to protect our families, neighborhoods, and communities. They deserve a network that is interoperable, reliable, and secure.
Mr. Curtis BrownDeputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland SecurityCommonwealth of Virginia
Dr. Damon DarseyAssistant ProfessorUniversity of Mississippi Medical Center
Mr. Mark GoldsteinPhysical Issues DirectorGovernment Accountability Office
Mr. Michael PothChief Executive OfficerFirstNet
Mr. Chris SambarSenior Vice PresidentAT&T
Mr. Chris Sambar
Mr. Michael Poth