When Congress called for the creation of a nationwide broadband network for public safety in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, lawmakers knew it was important that states play a key role in ensuring that the network meets the needs of local first responders. To implement this goal, the law directed NTIA to establish the State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) to support states as they prepare for the launch of the network.
Since awarding grants to 54 states and territories in 2013, NTIA staff has been busy working with our SLIGP grantees on how to make the most of this opportunity. The $116 million in grants are helping states as they conduct outreach with public safety and state and local officials to determine their needs, gaps and priorities for public safety wireless broadband and to prepare for formal consultations with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which is developing the public safety broadband network.
As we continue to monitor the progress of these efforts, NTIA’s SLIGP federal program officers are conducting site visits to its state grantees. We are gaining valuable information from these visits about how different states are using their grants to plan for FirstNet and have begun sharing some of this information by developing best practices documents.
States are identifying challenges they might face in deploying the nationwide broadband network. They also are making progress on grant priorities such as determining coverage needs and identifying users that will participate on the network, as well as establishing governing bodies to assist the state’s single point of contact for FirstNet.
As of September 2014, recipients across the nation have reached more than 48,000 stakeholders. States have developed a variety of approaches to ensure they are reaching the appropriate stakeholders in their state from developing websites and social media pages to distributing newsletters and email updates. For example, Florida has hosted eight listening sessions around the state and plans to host additional listening tours in 2015. Massachusetts held 10 statewide information sessions and posted the presentations on its website for those who could not attend the meetings in person. Iowa plans to conduct outreach meetings with stakeholders from all the state’s counties, visiting 60 of the state’s 90 counties so far. Missouri’s outreach has included two rounds of meetings with 19 regional Councils of Government, and the state is planning additional meetings as needed.
Looking ahead, NTIA program officers will continue to conduct site visits to offer support, assistance and oversight of our SLIGP awards. We expect grantees to continue their education and outreach to stakeholders within their state as FirstNet continues its efforts to help give first responders a broadband network that will help them save lives.