Why Virginia Chose FirstNet; GAO Suggests Improvements

Five states have chosen so far to opt-in to the FirstNet nationwide mobile broadband public safety network for first responders. Virginia was the first to do so, Inside Towers reported. A representative of the commonwealth explained why to members of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet on Thursday.

“Opting-out was barely considered,” said Virginia Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Curtis Brown, because deploying and operating its own network is not financially feasible.

Yet for all the rosy predictions covered in our top story, the Government Accountability Office had some suggestions where FirstNet could improve. Describing a report released Thursday, GAO Physical Issues Director Mark Goldstein told lawmakers FirstNet should study its long-term staffing needs so it doesn’t become short-staffed when it becomes responsible for overseeing the network in the future. The GAO also recommended FirstNet do a better job of Tribal inclusion.

Poth said tribal consultation is a “key part of our planning to assure tribal emergency responders can access the system once we have opt-in from the state governors.” As for staffing, “we’re working on it,” Poth said.

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