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Telecom Execs, Public Safety Officials Named To Emergency Communications Board


Janet Napolitano Secretary of Homeland Security(Richard A. Bloom)

The Commerce Department on Monday named a board of directors to steer FirstNet, the new government authority charged with developing a nationwide broadband public safety network.

Telecommunications executive Sam Ginn, who led Pacific Telesis and AirTouch, was named chairman. Other members of the 15-person board include Charles Dowd, Deputy Chief of the New York Police Department, Teri Takai, formerly chief information officer of the states of California and Michigan, and Tim Bryan, CEO of National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative. By law, the U.S attorney general, the secretary of Homeland Security, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget have seats on the board.

FirstNet, an independent authority inside the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, has the goal of creating a broadband emergency network with a uniform design that allows state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to communicate across agencies and share information. The network was authorized in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, signed by President Obama in February, will operate over a 20 MHz swath of the 700 band allocated in the law.

Congress authorized $7 billion for FirstNet, with funding to be provided by the proceeds of spectrum auctions planned by the Federal Communications Commission plan. These auctions have been defined by the FCC as voluntary. So far, broadcasters haven't exhibited a great deal of interest in selling.

The FirstNet board's first tasks will be to come up with operating procedures, name an advisory committee, and begin the process of learning what public safety officials want for a network.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., praised FirstNet board, saying, "Today's appointments begin a new chapter in making sure our firefighters, police officers, and EMS workers, among other first responders, have the tools they need to get the job done and keep us safe."

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