Skip to main content

Review Committee: FirstNet is Operating Transparently

The organization overseeing the development
of the interoperable broadband emergency communications network being funded
with proceeds from broadcaster spectrum auctions has been conducting its
business in an open and transparent manner and did not withhold records from
board members or produce a plan without vetting it with the board or public
safety stakeholders.

That was the
conclusion of a special committee reviewing allegations leveled by board member
Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald back in April.

Fitzgerald, in a
resolution, raised concerns in an April 23 board meeting about whether the First
Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) was giving board members equal access to
records and whether its network plan was being developed without input from all
board members and Public Safety Advisory Board members.

The resolution was
tabled by a special committee was formed to investigate the concerns.

Fitzgerald had
problems with, among other things, briefing and conference calls outside of
board meetings, which he said had not been publicly announced or disclosed. The
committee, which included representatives of the Attorney General's
office, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland
Security, concluded the calls and briefings did not constitute decisionmaking,
voting or narrowing of any options for the network.

As to board members
having access to information, Fitzgerald said he was unable to get access to on
how outside consultants for the project were picked and how much they were
paid. The committee concluded that there were delays in providing full
financial info to the board, but that the information was eventually provided.
As to unequal access, the committee said that was partly the result of setting
the board up quickly, with some members holding dual roles. It also pointed out
that since there were now four permanent committees, "there will be
instances in which committee members have more information about the subject
matter of their committee than will other Board members," which it points
out is not atypical of boards in general.

Fitzgerald had
complained that FirstNet's plan for the network was flawed because it did not
include alternatives, was not vetted by the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSA), and was
sufficiently advanced to foreclose effective input from stakeholders.

The review committee
concluded the planning document submitted to the board had not been a
"plan" and was not intended to prelude further discussion or
alternatives. It was described as "brainstorming" submitted to the
board for informational purposes only. "The Board did not vote on the
Planning Document, nor did FirstNet staff represent to the Board that the
Planning Document was intended to be a fully developed plan ripe for Board action,"
," said the review committee. "And it appears evident...that the
Board never regarded the Planning Document as a final network plan."

The committee is
preparing a second report on procurement and ethics to be released "in the
coming months," and will hold off on recommendations on all the issues it
is examining until that time.