FCC Chairwoman Proposes Rules to Improve Network Resiliency During Disasters
Thursday, June 16, 2022 | Comments

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel shared new draft rules to improve the reliability and resiliency of wireless networks during emergencies. If adopted by a vote of the full commission, the rules would help reduce wireless phone outages for the public and support faster service restoration after hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters.

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

Last September, the commission adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking to improve communications during disasters. The commission also convened a field hearing on this topic, where stakeholders from public safety, industry and consumer groups testified. The draft rules result from that 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 during disasters through roaming agreements, mutual aid, and other measures. At present, the nation’s largest wireless providers are signatories to this agreement. If adopted, the rules would codify the framework and expand its applicability to all facilities-based wireless providers.

Among other changes, the rules would require facilities-based wireless providers to enter into mutual-aid arrangements that enable them to request, or receive a request, for assistance during emergencies. The rules would also require that facilities-based wireless providers enter into bilateral roaming agreements in advance of disasters to help the public communicate. In addition, the rules would expand the triggers for activation of these provisions and provide for critical testing and reporting on wireless roaming implementation during disasters.

If adopted, the rules would take a significant step forward to improve network resiliency. At the same time, the commission would continue examining the record in this proceeding and real-world performance during disasters in order to take any necessary further actions.

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