Vermont Holds Initial FirstNet State Consultation

23 June 2015

Vermont Holds Initial FirstNet State Consultation
[Waterbury, VT]

On Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in South Burlington, sixty-nine members of Vermont’s public safety community came together for State of Vermont’s initial consultation with FirstNet, the federal entity charged with building a National Wireless Public Safety Broadband Network, which is the last unmet recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.

Per the legislation that enacted FirstNet, the entity is required to consult with each state and territory to gain a deeper understanding of each state’s unique communications challenges. Another objective of the consultation process is for stakeholders to provide information that will be part of the State Plan, which will address the communications needs of each state’s public safety entities. State Plans will inform each state’s choice to have FirstNet deploy the radio access network (RAN) within the state’s borders or to assume the financial and operational responsibility to build, operate, and maintain its own RAN that integrates with the remainder of the FirstNet network.

Former Governor James Douglas and FirstNet Board Members was introduced by Paco Aumand the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety and Chair of the VT Public Safety Broadband Commission. Governor Douglas provided opening remarks and expressed support for the development of a nationwide broadband network dedicated to first responders. Amanda Hilliard, Director of Outreach for FirstNet, started off the presentations with an update on the current and future goals of FirstNet. Currently, FirstNet is soliciting feedback on their national procurement and acquisition strategy, building outreach and awareness, and collecting local data to inform the design of the network. 

Leaders in Vermont’s public safety community presented Use Cases on how they utilize mobile broadband data today and how a statewide network could improve their service to the public. Presenters included Mike Leyden of the Department of Health, Captain Tim Clouatre of the Vermont State Police, Neil Van Dyke of Vermont Search and Rescue, and Rob Schell and Joe Flynn of the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.  

Throughout the day long coversation we learned that  a top concerns of Vermont’s public safety community was how FirstNet could achieve 99.99% coverage in a rural state like Vermont.  When a map of the current commercial coverage in Vermont was shown, the first responder community was cautious about the potential for the network to provide coverage to rural and wilderness areas of Vermont. Other concerns expressed included: how the network will work in the northern areas of the state which are lacking coverage from American carriers and are covered by Roger’s Wireless Network; whether or not FirstNet would allow first responders, such as volunteer firefighters, to come on and off of the network during emergencies. FirstNet reminded Vermont that even commercial providers are unable to provide 99.99% coverage and that part of the legislation that created FirstNet calls for significant rural milestones in the build out of the network. 

Leaders in Vermont’s public safety community presented Use Cases on how they utilize mobile broadband data today and how a statewide network could improve their service to the public. Presenters included Mike Leyden of the Department of Health, Captain Tim Clouatre of the Vermont State Police, Neil Van Dyke of Vermont Search and Rescue, and Rob Schell and Joe Flynn of the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security were among the presenters.  Tess Gauthier, Project Manager on the FirstNet project presented the next steps in the State and Local Implementation Grant Program and encouraged the public safety community to stay engaged through the work by completing the survey, inviting the outreach team to an upcoming public safety meeting, checking for updates on the newly launched outreach and education site, as well as signing up for the VT Public Safety Broadband Commission Newsletter. 

Meeting attendees provided feedback that the crowd was diverse in representation from the public safety community. One thing for sure is that Vermont’s public safety practitioners are a passionate group concerned about rural and wilderness coverage, quality of service, hardened and resilient sites, and the ability to interoperate with our Canadian neighbors.

Contact

Public Safety Broadband Network Commission
Department of Public Safety
45 State Drive Waterbury, VT 05671
(802) 241-5535/ Email the PSBC

Visit the national FirstNet web site at: www.FirstNet.gov