FCC Blames Insufficient Backhaul, Roaming, Coordination for Hurricane Michael Response
Friday, May 10, 2019 | Comments

An FCC report found that three key factors were the predominant causes of the unacceptably slow restoration of wireless service in the Florida Panhandle following Hurricane Michael in 2018.

The report said insufficient resilient backhaul connectivity, inadequate reciprocal roaming arrangements, and lack of coordination among wireless service providers, power crews and municipalities caused the problems.

“Indeed, the investigation found that recovery efforts themselves often led to communications outages,” the FCC said. “There were numerous cases in which a wireless provider had restored service to customers only to have that service brought down as third-party crews damaged communications assets while clearing trash or restoring power lines and utility poles.”

The report said such lack of coordination among wireless providers, utilities and debris clearance crews unnecessarily prolonged the time customers lacked service.

“It will come as no surprise to the residents of the Florida Panhandle that there is significant room for improvement on the recovery efforts seen in the wake of Hurricane Michael,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “I appreciate the efforts of the FCC’s public-safety staff and call on wireless phone companies, other communications providers, and power companies to quickly implement the recommendations contained in this report.”

To improve recovery efforts from future storms, the report recommends that:
• Wireless providers in hurricane-prone areas enter into roaming agreements as part of their pre-storm preparation processes.
• Communications providers and power companies in hurricane-prone areas enter into coordination agreements regarding mutual preparation and restoration efforts that can be activated when a storm strikes.
• Wireless providers use diverse backhaul options, such as microwave links and satellite links in hurricane-prone areas.
• Communications providers participate in training activities to improve coordination of restoration efforts.
• Wireless providers ensure familiarity with applicable best practices, especially as they relate to cooperation and coordination with local utilities.
The Hurricane Michael report is available here.

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