It’s been a year since Hurricane Sandy struck a devastating blow to communities in the Eastern United States. Since then, America’s recovery efforts have focused not only on rebuilding but also on resiliency – that is, improving our ability to withstand future disasters. The lessons learned from the storm are shaping the FCC’s work as well.
Hurricane Sandy was a powerful reminder of the importance of resilient communications networks – whether you are calling for help, checking on the well-being of loved ones, or just trying to resume day-to-day business after a disaster strikes. Unfortunately, millions of Americans faced communications problems after the storm. For example, at its peak, Sandy disabled approximately 25 percent of cell sites in the affected region – and more than 50 percent in the hardest-hit counties. But some wireless providers fared better than others because of the preparations they undertook, suggesting that there are additional steps providers can take to bolster network resiliency.
In fact, the Commission held field hearings after Hurricane Sandy to hear from stakeholders about how to improve disaster-time communications. Based on one of the ideas raised, the Commission recently proposed rules that would require wireless service providers to publicly disclose the percentage of cell sites within their networks that are operational during and immediately after disasters. The concept is simple: by providing consumers with a yardstick for comparing wireless performance in emergencies, this proposal could empower consumers and in turn create competitive incentives in the wireless industry to improve network reliability. We are seeking public comment on this and other approaches.
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