Wireless Communications

FirstNet readies spending plan

police car

The board of the federal agency charged with managing the development of a nationwide wireless emergency communications network has approved an almost $200 million spending plan for the project in 2014 and appointed a White House budget official to manage it.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)’s First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is managing the construction of a project that is set to become the first nationwide, high-speed network dedicated to public safety for 56 U.S. states and territories.

FirstNet is an independent entity within the NTIA, which is part of the Commerce Department, and is overseen by a board made up of representatives of public safety, government and the wireless industry.

Randolph Lyon was named the organization’s new chief financial officer. He has been detailed to FirstNet by the Office of Management and Budget since March, according to NTIA. At FirstNet, he will be responsible for financial strategy, management and oversight and will oversee the $194 million 2014 budget.

At OMB Lyon led the Commerce Branch responsible for budget, management and policy matters involving the Commerce Department, Federal Communications Commission, Small Business Administration and several smaller agencies, with budgets totaling more than $20 billion annually.

Lyon helped develop and oversee implementation of a variety of telecommunications, technology, environmental, economic and information policies carried out by these agencies. He also had a key role in developing the administration’s proposal that led to the creation of FirstNet and helped develop proposals leading to the creation of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, the Spectrum Relocation Fund, spectrum auction legislation, market-based regulatory programs and other program reforms.

Politico reported in early August that a member of the FirstNet board, Story County, Iowa, Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald, recently gave the Commerce Department’s inspector general evidence that some of the board members are too closely tied to wireless carriers and have ignored public safety officials’ communications needs. NTIA did not respond to an Aug. 21 FCW inquiry about the investigation’s status.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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