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Chairman Genachowski Announces Post-Superstorm Sandy Field Hearings

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Released: November 21, 2012

NEWS

News media Information 202 / 418-0500

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Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D. C. 20554
This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order
constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEWS MEDIA CONTACT

November 21, 2012

Justin Cole: 202-418-8191
Email: justin.cole@fcc.gov

FCC CHAIRMAN GENACHOWSKI ANNOUNCES POST-SUPERSTORM SANDY FIELD

HEARINGS TO EXAMINE NEW CHALLENGES TO RESILIENCY OF U.S.

COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS DURING NATURAL DISASTERS & OTHER TIMES OF

CRISIS

Field hearings will address issues such as power & fuel dependencies, emergency permitting, resource
sharing protocols, 9-1-1 accessibility, and others; Outcomes will inform recommendations to strengthen
wired and wireless networks in the face of large-scale national emergencies
Washington, D.C. – Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski today announced plans to
convene a series of field hearings in the coming months to examine new challenges to the nation’s
communications networks in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and help inform recommendations and
action to improve network resiliency. The field hearings will focus on the unique challenges faced by
communications service providers, state and local officials, emergency personnel, and consumers before,
during and after Superstorm Sandy as well as other natural disasters. Beginning in early 2013, hearings
will take place throughout the country in locations that have experienced major natural disasters, starting
in New York. They will include businesses, public safety officials, engineering and academic experts,
consumers and other stakeholders.

FCC Chairman Genachowski said

, “This unprecedented storm has revealed new challenges that will
require a national dialogue around ideas and actions to ensure the resilience of communications
networks. As our thoughts and sympathies remain with those who have suffered loss and damage as a
result of Superstorm Sandy, I urge all stakeholders to engage constructively in the period ahead.”

He continued

, “I want to thank Senator Chuck Schumer for his leadership, and welcome his call for the
Commission to develop a roadmap for how to better protect critical communications functions during
major disasters.”
The field hearings will inquire about a number of topics, based on the Commission’s current assessment
of the U.S. communications infrastructure post-Superstorm Sandy. These inquiry topics and related
questions include, but are not limited to, the following areas.

Sandy was an event for which communications providers had substantial advance notice.


·
To what extent did service providers take advantage of this advance notice to stage
communications assets such as portable cell sites to reduce the effects of the storm?
·
To what extent did service providers notify consumers of their communications options in
advance of the storm?

There were several instances where communications providers worked together to share resources to
improve communications performance during Sandy.


·
How can service providers best work together by sharing resources, such as cell sites, WiFi
networks and transmission facilities? What can the Commission do to facilitate this? In what
ways can these arrangements be made in advance so that they are in place when disaster strikes?

Our communications systems are increasingly reliant on electric power, both for the infrastructure and
in homes and businesses: e.g., to power consumers’ mobile and home communications devices and
equipment, communications companies’ central offices and cell sites, and broadcasters’ transmitters
and studios:


·
What level of service is needed and expected during emergencies and for what modes of
communications?
·
When commercial power is unavailable, how long should back-up power sources be expected to
last?
·
Over the years there have been many developments in back-up power practices and technology
for use in communications networks. What technologies and practices are in use today and how
do they affect the ability of communications service providers to maintain service during power
outages? What technologies, actions, practices or requirements should be considered to help
improve the availability of power?
·
What challenges exist to the deployment of back-up power solutions? What cost, safety and
environmental issues need to be taken into account and are there different challenges to deploying
back-up power solutions for small carriers and to service in urban, suburban, and rural areas, and
tribal lands?
·
To what extent is back-up power provided for equipment in the home? What can be done to
improve consumer awareness of the limits of any back-up battery power that may be available
when commercial power fails and what can be done to improve upon these limitations?
·
What capabilities do communications providers offer their customers to alleviate disruptions to
communications services during an emergency, or to help maintain back-up power supplies for
Internet and cable access? For example, what kinds of solutions are made available to customers
to help them charge devices like cell phones?

In addition to back-up power, transport connectivity between cell sites and other network nodes failed,
resulting in disruptions to wireless communications:


·
How can transport, interconnection, and switching be made more reliable in disasters and less
vulnerable to floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards and other damage? What other
interdependencies are there that should be reduced and how?
·
What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of different backhaul technologies in terms of
technical feasibility, vulnerability, reliability and cost effectiveness, e.g., microwave backhaul
versus fiber, and does this vary with respect to aerial or buried plans and different types of
terrain? What relative resiliency and reliability characteristics would these or other technologies
have in different emergency situations, such as loss of primary grid power or major physical
damage to network equipment or other infrastructure?
·
How can backhaul redundancy across multiple providers be ensured when communications
service providers lease backhaul facilities from other companies?

Emergency communications, particularly 9-1-1 communications networks, generally remained
operational during Sandy.


·
What obstacles are there to connect to and receive emergency help and what technologies and
actions might help? Are there unique obstacles for the elderly or people with disabilities that
affect their use and access to communications regarding emergency services?
2

Communications services took days to recover after Sandy. This not only includes service availability,
but service availability at full performance.


·
How can the restoration of communications services proceed faster or services remain operational
longer? For example, how would changes in availability and prioritization of fuel or other power
sources such as generators help, and how could these changes be brought about? How could
communications providers be enabled with improved access to important sites like studios,
transmitters, central offices, cell sites, public rights-of-way. Should specialized “boomer” cell
sites be deployed?
·
Why would services, once restored, perform at levels inferior to those customarily enjoyed by
users? How long can these performance degradations be expected to last?
·
How do communications providers prioritize services and applications during a disaster in which
bandwidth is constrained? How are these priorities communicated to users so they can make
most effective use of their communications services?
·
How has the introduction of broadband technologies into commercial communications networks
made them more or less resilient to major weather events like Sandy?
·
Do the elderly and people with disabilities, and other communities, have needs that require
additional attention?

Users of communications services appear to lack information about the performance of the services
they pay for.


·
Do consumers have enough access to information about their communications services during
emergencies? What additional information would help consumers? For example, would it help
consumers to know the performance and reliability of the companies’ service or devices as
compared to competitors during past emergencies?

General observations.


·
What steps can be taken to connect people better and more effectively to each other and to
information in emergencies, via mobile, landline, satellite, broadcast, cable, social media or
otherwise, and are there any laws or regulations that may require changing to accomplish this?
·
What role can libraries, community centers and schools play as temporary communication
centers? How can service providers help them serve that role more effectively?
A full schedule of the public hearings will be released in the near future.
-FCC-
News about the Federal Communications Commission can also be found
on the Commission’s web site www.fcc.gov.
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