I spent the early part of this week in the Windy City at NTCA’s Technology and Business Conference. While I think that we still have work to do to reach out to the CTO’s, operations folks and network managers within our member’’s systems to ensure that even more of our member companies can take advantage of not only the timely topics that cover the range for those involved in the tech or business side of rural broadband business (or both!) but this conference is also has a fabulous opportunity for peer to peer networking built in to the programming. i call that a win-win-win!
It was most gracious of FirstNet acting CEO Ed Parkinson to join me in Chicago to have a conversation with myself and our attendees on next steps for FirstNet and ways to ensure that rural infrastructure assets are in the mix as FirstNet and AT&T begin their next phase of work creating a nation-wide public safety broadband capable network. Many folks dont remember the genesis for the original legislation that created FirstNet, but as a resident of Arlington County in Virginia, we were all painfully aware of how few different public safety networks could “talk” to one another until one of the 9/11 hijacked planes hit the Pentagon. While the Pentagon is in Arlington and there were additional threats and concerns made about the White House right across the river in Washington DC – public safety officials were greatly stymied by being on different networks and the huge challenges of connecting with one another in needed real time. Legislation followed that would create seamless and priorized networks and the past several years were focused on getting this up and running.
Ed walked folks in attendance through the evolution of this network and shared his commitment to strategic partnerships that will best build these networks – in all parts of the country – and his philosophy on ensuring the best use of resources and to not overbuild existing networks. Parkinson also reminded attendees that business is a two way street and that FirstNet bids were not an opportunity to charge AT&T more than reasonable for interconnections and leasing – that was the surest way to ensure that rural assets would not be used. Constructive, honest and encouraging was how I felt when Ed and I wrapped up our chat and pondered next steps and audience participation was relatively robust…at least there was a long line to talk with the AT&T representative at the meeting after our session.
As usual…more to follow!