A terrific line-up for conference

While I’ve been a guest at APCO’s Annual Conferences in the past, this is the first year I’m on the “inside” and it’s been a terrific experience thus far.  I’m especially excited with the sessions that our Government Relations team has set up.  Not only do we have a number of highly esteemed government officials with speaking roles, but all of our panelists are quality professionals that will contribute to very informative sessions.  And our conference comes at a perfect time, because this is a transformational moment for public safety communications – with the advent of the public safety broadband network (PSBN), under the guidance of the First Responder Network Authority, “FirstNet,” as our nationwide governance body, as well as exciting developments in Next Generation 9-1-1 services.  All the while we’re keeping our eye on the current public safety communications systems that first responders will continue to rely upon for years to come.

Typically, the Government Relations sessions attract what we call the “Beltway” crowd, meaning those that interact with the Federal government, whether at the FCC, Capitol Hill, the Administration, or other federal agencies.  But the sessions this year should be of general interest to all of APCO’s members and supporters.  Here’s a breakdown, and hopefully you’ll see what I mean:


Session:  Partnership Opportunities with Commercial Wireless Service Providers

We will have a variety of large and small commercial wireless service providers on hand to discuss the partnership opportunities they envision with FirstNet to help implement an advanced wireless broadband network for first responders.  The legislation that created FirstNet emphasizes the need to rely upon the infrastructure and expertise commercial carriers already have with advanced wireless networks.  Their partnerships will be key to the success of the PSBN.


Session:  Opening General Session

Besides the usual fanfare and keynote speaker typical of the opening general session, we have another very special speaker – the U.S. Acting Secretary of Commerce, Dr. Rebecca Blank.  Be sure to stay tuned.  Note that this day, August 20, is the statutory deadline for the Secretary to appoint the members of the FirstNet Board.  APCO will be streaming the opening general session live.

Session:  FCC Panel

Led by APCO’s long-time outside counsel Bob Gurss, the FCC panel is always informative as we hear from FCC staff on current regulatory topics impacting public safety communications.  This year, we will first welcome opening remarks from David Turestsky, the newly appointed Bureau Chief.

Session:  Cybersecurity and the Modern Public Safety Broadband LTE Network

Attention everyone – as we move to all the wonders and benefits of advanced communications for first responders and PSAPs, we need to be aware of the risks of cyber threats to these networks.  This panel will consist of excellent speakers that will help educate the audience on the types of threats we should expect, and how best to contain them.  Among the panelists will be Rear Admiral Ronald Hewitt, Director & Deputy Manager, National Communications System, Department of Homeland Security.

Session:  Talking Advanced Wireless and Social Media Technologies with Minneapolis’s Newest First Responders

We’re trying something new this year at conference.  We can’t help but think how our “newer” first responders – ok, the younger ones – are also known as “digital natives,” meaning they grew up with digital technology, including smart phones, tablets, and social media.  Yet they employ typical land mobile radios in their jobs to keep the public and themselves safe.  With this informal gathering, we are looking to begin what should be an interesting and fun dialogue to hear the perspective of these first responder, digital natives about advanced communications and public safety.


Session:  Distinguished Achievers Breakfast

Always a wonderful opportunity to honor deserving public safety communications officials, this year’s event will highlight another special guest, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who will offer remarks about public safety communications.

Session:  A Nationwide 700 MHz Public Safety Broadband Network

APCO’s Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) staff will be hosting a great discussion about the network, with speakers from the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program from Boulder, CO, who are absolute technical experts, yet, have a talent for explaining things in more layman’s terms. 

Session:  Status Update on H.R. 3630: What’s Happened to Date and What to Expect Next

H.R. 3630 is the name of the bill that became the public safety “D Block” legislation enacted this year.  For this session, we have a special federal government official, Larry Strickling, who is the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).  NTIA is responsible for, among many other important communications-related tasks, the grant program to enable state and local planning for the nationwide public safety broadband network.


Session:  Text-to-9-1-1: Challenges and Opportunities

In another session led by Bob Gurss, the FCC’s 9-1-1 subject matter expert, Patrick Donovan, will be on hand for a lively discussion about the opportunities and challenges with texting to 9-1-1.

Session:  Closing Luncheon

Along with our keynote speaker, the closing luncheon will kick off with remarks from Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.  Senator Klobuchar is one of the four co-chairs of the Congressional Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus.

Well, there you have it.  Hope to see you at the conference, and be sure to say hello to the Government Relations team, whether me (Jeff Cohen), or Roger Wespe.  We always welcome opportunities to interact with APCO’s membership and supporters.