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FirstNet Takes Next Steps, But Without its General Manager 

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By Stew Magnuson 

The First Responder Network Authority, better known as FirstNet, recently took some key steps toward its long-term goal of building a nationwide communication network for first responders.

It has released “checklist” documents to 56 states and territories that will help it understand their needs, a strategic roadmap to assist it in developing its business plan, named a chief technology officer and funded key activities.

The announcements of these achievements came only weeks after its first general manager, Bill D’Agostino, abruptly resigned after less than a year on the job.

Congress in 2012 established FirstNet, which is an independent organization administered within the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Congress allocated $7 billion to kickstart the effort to build the nationwide network and reserved highly sought after spectrum for first responders’ exclusive use.

Its goal is to build a nationwide broadband network where a police officer, firefighter or other emergency personnel can use a single communication device and have it work interoperably whether they are in the middle of Death Valley or in the heart of Manhattan. The 9/11 Commission initially recommended the creation of the network in 2004.

D’Agostino departed for “personal and family reasons.” The relatively new organization now begins a second nationwide search for its main leadership position.

“Over the past several months, FirstNet has built out its senior management team, pulling in top talent from industry, government and public safety to lead the organization,” a statement announcing the resignation said.

The new chief technology officer is Ali Afrashteh, who has some 30 years of experience in the wireless industry.

Vendors saw a steady stream of requests for information in 2013 centering on mobile communication devices, applications and networks. 

FirstNet will have a pot of money to spend in 2014 for contracts, a statement said. The 2014 fiscal year budget includes $33 million on network development, which includes plans to release request for proposals for “comprehensive network solutions.”

The board of directors also late last year voted to locate its headquarters in Reston, Virginia.
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