Rebecca Blank Announces First Responder Network Board Members

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank has appointed new members of a board to help oversee the deployment of a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders, the department announced Monday.

The 15-member Board of the First Responder Network Authority, known as FirstNet will act as an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“For too long, America’s first responders have been hampered by outdated technology and incompatible networks,” Blank said in the release, adding the department wanted the board members to have diverse experience.

The secretary of homeland security, the attorney general and the director of the Office of Management and Budget will serve as permanent board members with the commerce secretary responsible for choosing the remaining 12.

Sam Ginn, former chairman and CEO of Pacific Telesis and formerly chairman of AirTouch, will serve as chairman.

Board appointees include:

  • Tim Bryan — CEO of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative
  • Chuck Dowd — deputy chief of the New York City Police Department
  • F. Craig Farrill — wireless telecommunications executive
  • Paul Fitzgerald — sheriff in Story County, Iowa
  • Jeffrey Johnson — retired fire chief, former chair of Oregon’s State Interoperability Council, CEO of the Western Fire Chiefs Association
  • William Keever — retired telecommunications executive
  • Kevin McGinnis — CEO of North East Mobile Health Services
  • Ed Reynolds — retired telecommunications executive
  • Susan Swenson — telecommunications and technology executive
  • Teri Takai — chief information officer at the Defense Department
  • Wellington Webb — founder of Webb Group International and former mayor of Denver

FirstNet was created through the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, signed in February and calling for public safety agencies to receive new technology for communicating with each other and responding to emergencies.

Congress has allocated $7 billion of spectrum auction proceeds and spectrum bandwidth towards the nationwide network and has also provided $135 million for an NTIA program to work with state, local and tribal governments in updating their public safety networks.

According to the department, firefighters could use the network download blueprints of burning buildings in order to plan their entry route, emergency medical technicians would remotely access a victim’s medical records from an ambulance and police would identify criminal suspects through facial recognition or iris scanning technologies.

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