Natural Disaster

The FCC has updated service provider emergency reporting requirements. The goal is to improve network reliability, resiliency and transparency during disasters and outages.

Certain types of networks must report outages on an ongoing basis to the FCC’s Network Outage Reporting System (NORS). The FCC also may activate the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) during emergencies. Its goal is to “gain greater situational awareness, keep public safety officials and the general public informed about service outages, and support service restoration.”

The problem is that DIRS is voluntary and some service providers are not required to participate in NORS. This can lead to information gaps during emergencies.

The new rules will:

  • Require cable communications, wireline, wireless, and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to report daily infrastructure status information when DIRS is activated for geographic areas in which they provide service.
  • Suspend NORS reporting obligations when providers are required to report in DIRS during a disaster, so they are not obligated to report twice.
  • Require DIRS filers to provide a single, final summary DIRS report to the Commission within 24 hours of the deactivation of DIRS.  

The FCC also is seeking comment in four areas:

  • Whether it should require TV and radio broadcasters, satellite providers, and broadband Internet access service (BIAS) providers to report in NORS and/or DIRS.
  • The extent to which the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) should be subject to NORS and/or DIRS reporting.
  • If providers should be required to supply the FCC with after-action reports detailing how their networks fared during the emergency or disaster event.
  • If providers should be required to report the location of mobile recovery assets during a disaster response

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association issued a statement attributed to Executive Vice President Mike Romano.

“While NTCA recognizes the FCC’s need for information, we are disappointed that the new rules will compel the submission of daily regulatory reports rather than permitting companies to focus specifically on restoration activity and on the immediate needs of the community while providing updates on network status when feasible.”

Emergency preparedness is critical because crises hit hard. When Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast in late August, 2021, the FCC reported that 52% of all cell towers in the storm’s path through Louisiana were out of service.

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