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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks at FirstNet Board Meeting

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Remarks as Prepared for Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce 

Thank you, Chairman Ginn. I also want to recognize Assistant Secretary Strickling. 

Thank you all for inviting me. I’ve heard so much about FirstNet and this high-profile board.  

Building a nationwide, interoperable broadband network to support public safety is a big undertaking. Let me start by simply saying thank you for your commitment to serve our country in this unique and important way.

I’ve heard from many people about FirstNet. For example, at my confirmation hearing, Senator Rockefeller highlighted its potential impact on his state and our society. 

Already, I’ve seen first-hand some of the work we are doing to support FirstNet. For example, on my first domestic trip, I went to Boulder and met NTIA’s Public Safety Communications Research team. They’re researching new technologies for FirstNet.

In addition, I’m pleased that NTIA recently issued the first round of planning grants for FirstNet to some states. More will be out soon. 

This Board itself has taken several important first steps: You’ve hired leadership. You’ve reached out to stakeholders across the country. And you’re creating big plans for the coming fiscal year.

As someone who spent 27 years in business, I share the sense of urgency that you have. I know that we need to move forward as quickly as possible. 

A dynamic and effective board will be a key part of ensuring that happens. 

That’s why I’m reappointing Jeff Johnson, Sue Swenson, and Teri Takai for another three years. They’ve worked on issues ranging from spectrum leases to stakeholder outreach. Thank you all for your continued service. 

With the help of everyone here today, I believe that we will hit our stride in the coming months and year. 

The Commerce Department will continue to make FirstNet a priority. For example, NTIA will continue lending its resources and expertise to FirstNet. 

We will also need strong and continued support at the highest levels from our federal partners – the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice. Their commitment to collaboration and progress with FirstNet will be crucial to our success. 

All of us need to work together more closely and effectively than ever before. In particular, with taxpayer funds now supporting our work, we need to stretch our limited resources as far as possible. 

Before I open the floor for discussion, I’ll note that Sam recently spoke at a conference in Colorado about FirstNet. He said “this is the largest, most complex telecommunications project in the history of the world.  Period.” He talked about how we need to define core functions and capabilities for the network, we need to find ways to use economies-of-scale, and we need to maximize existing assets such as cell towers that have already been built. 

Clearly, it’s time for us to move forward with a sound business plan and an ambitious operational timeline. Our first responders deserve our collective and unified focus on getting the job done quickly and right. 

My hope is that we can move forward with urgency, rigor, and accountability. 

I look forward to working with all of you, and I’d be happy to open the floor for a few questions and comments.