Lawmakers and witnesses were generally favorable to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) laboratory, located in Boulder, Colorado, during a House communications subcommittee hearing Feb. 2. The hearing covered reauthorizing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which oversees federal spectrum.FirstNet on State CIOs’ Priority List During Federal Meetings
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Rep. Mike Doyle, ranking member of the subcommittee, said NTIA’s ITS lab budget was 23 percent below its request. “We want to ensure this agency has the tools … it needs to do its job.”
The Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program performs research to advance public-safety communications interoperability. PSCR is a joint effort between NTIA ITS and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Communications Technology Laboratory (CTL).
Meredith Atwell-Baker, president of CTIA, said the lab is a critical part of spectrum questions and was helpful during the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS)-1 and AWS-3 spectrum relocations.
“ITS served a s valuable resource in identifying spectrum and how it’s being used,” said Anna Gomez, who served as acting assistant secretary for communications and information and former acting administrator of NTIA in 2009. “They are an objective and neutral arbiter of spectrum as we move forward.”
Gomez cited a study that found the lab is “seriously underfunded,” in response to questions from Rep. Frank Pallone about a $50 million reauthorization request.
Gomez also described the important role NTIA has for FirstNet. “NTIA will manage the opt-out process and provide leases,” she said. NTIA will continue to have responsibilities … It needs to support FirstNet. It’s a large project and unprecedented.”
Gomez praised Congress’ foresight in authorizing the State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) grants to allow states to plan for FirstNet. “FirstNet is required to deploy, but no one is required to use it,” she said. “They are engaged in consultation with all the various branches of public safety. The only way it will succeed is if public safety sees the value of the network. Communications is very important.”
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