The FCC sent letters yesterday to seven wireless service providers, seeking details on telecom disaster preparation and response. The seven companies include the four large nationwide carriers – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile – as well as U.S. Cellular, GCI and Southern Linc. All carriers receiving letters had previously signed on to the Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework, an industry-led initiative aimed at enhancing coordination among providers, and between providers and the public safety community, before and after emergencies and disasters.

The virtually identical letter that the FCC sent to each of the seven carriers notes that the 2017 and 2018 hurricane seasons have been “destructive and devastating” and adds that “[d]uring some of these storms, communications networks performed relatively well” but that for others “there were substantial outages that lasted for a prolonged period of time.”

Telecom Disaster Preparation and Response
The Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework was adopted by the seven carriers and wireless carrier association CTIA in early 2016. The FCC adopted an order later that year expressing support for the framework, which is based on a five-pronged approach.

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As the FCC explains in a press release, that approach includes:

  • Providing for reasonable roaming when technically feasible
  • Fostering mutual aid among wireless providers
  • Enhancing municipal preparedness and restoration by convening with local government public safety representatives to develop best practices and establishing a provider/911 call center contact database
  • Working to increase consumer readiness and preparation
  • Improving public awareness and stakeholder communications on service and restoration status with county-by-county information

The letter that the FCC sent to each of the seven carriers asks the carriers to summarize how the framework was used for all disaster events to which the framework applied. The FCC asks carriers to respond by November 26, with responses to include:

  • A list of each event by date, location and type of disaster, including specific information related to the way the carrier fulfilled the “reasonable roaming and mutual aid” aspects of the framework
  • A list of mutual aid and roaming agreements that the carrier had in place for each of the events, including the names of parties to the agreements and details about how the carrier operationalized each agreement
  • A description of any instance in which any carrier declined a request for mutual aid or roaming and the surrounding circumstances
  • A description of the extent to which the carrier implemented CTIA Best Practices for Enhancing Emergency and Disaster Preparedness and Restoration during each event
  • A list of any situations in which the carrier did not implement the framework and an explanation why

This is the second time in less than a month that the FCC has spurred carriers for action in connection with recent hurricanes. In mid-October, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said carriers were not acting quickly enough to restore service after Hurricane Michael and urged the carriers to issue credits to customers whose service was interrupted.

Image courtesy of flickr user Kabsik Park.

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