FCC Chair proposes rules to improve network disaster resilience

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FCC Chair proposes rules to improve network disaster resilience

“While wireless service providers have worked hard to prevent outages and restore service during recent disasters, there have been times when communications were interrupted and recovery took too long, which put lives at risk,” Rosenworcel said. “Last fall, after Hurricane Ida caused its devastation, Commissioner Carr and I traveled to Louisiana and heard firsthand where communications resilience needs to be improved. The commission then sought comments on proposals to strengthen communications. Now it’s time to act on what we’ve learned. I especially want to thank Commissioner Carr for his continued collaboration as we take this first step to help first responders and the public stay connected during crises.

Last September, the commission passed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Improve Disaster Communications. The commission also convened an on-the-ground hearing on the matter, at which interveners from public safety, industry and consumer groups testified. The Draft Rules result from this effort.

Disaster recovery activities in the wireless industry are currently supported by the Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework, a voluntary industry agreement to promote resilient communications and situational awareness in the event of a disaster through roaming agreements, mutual aid and other measures. Currently, the largest wireless service providers in the country are signatories to this agreement. If adopted, the rules will codify the framework and broaden its applicability to all facilities-based wireless service providers.

Among other changes, the rules would require facilities-based wireless service providers to enter into mutual assistance agreements allowing them to request or receive a request for assistance in an emergency. The rules would also require facilities-based wireless service providers to enter into bilateral roaming agreements before disasters to help the public communicate. In addition, the rules would expand the triggers for activating these provisions and provide for critical testing and reporting on the implementation of wireless roaming in the event of a disaster.

If adopted, the rules would go a long way to improving network resilience. At the same time, the commission would continue to review the record of this procedure and the actual performance during disasters in order to take any additional measures necessary.

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