ACTING CHAIRWOMAN MIGNON L. CLYBURN
Improving the Resiliency of Mobile Communications Networks; Reliability and
Continuity of Communications Networks, Including Broadband Technologies
Docket 13-239; PS Docket No. 11-60, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 13-125
(September 26, 2013)
When disaster strikes, Americans increasingly rely on their mobile phones to call 9-1-1
and to check on the well-being of those they care about. But all too often, wireless network
outages in the wake of disasters leave many Americans disconnected, at precisely the time they
have the greatest need to communicate. At the peak of Super Storm Sandy, for example,
approximately 25 percent of cell sites in the affected region were disabled and more than double
that figure were disabled in the hardest-hit counties in New York and New Jersey. Without
question, communications providers worked tirelessly in their storm ravaged areas to restore
service. While some disaster-related disruptions may be inevitable, we must and can do more to
prepare for future emergencies. So the question remains: what can we do to prevent such
extensive wireless outages, from occurring in the first place?
Earlier this year, the Commission held field hearings to explore ways we can promote the
resiliency and reliability of communications networks during disasters. We learned during Super
Storm Sandy and other recent disasters that the level of cell site outages varied among wireless
providers even within the same geographic area. In addition, we found that choices and practices
regarding network resiliency vary among wireless service providers.
Taken together, these differences suggest that some approaches are more effective than
others and that there are additional actions providers can take to improve the ability of their
networks to withstand disasters and reduce service disruptions to consumers. The primary
proposal in this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking does not dictate what methods wireless providers
should use to harden their networks. Those decisions are best left to industry. But what would
create greater transparency is information on carrier performance that, up to now, has not been
publicly available. This would empower the public to hold wireless providers accountable for the
results of those decisions. Specifically, we are proposing that wireless providers submit to the
Commission, for public disclosure on a daily basis and immediately after major disasters, the
percentage of cell sites within their networks that are operational. Providers would report this
information, on a per-county basis, for the designated disaster area.
Since this data can be derived from information that providers already submit daily to the
Commission, on a voluntary and presumptively confidential basis during disasters, our proposal
should not impose any significant new burden on wireless providers. But our proposal could
have a significant impact in other ways: making cell site outage information public, empowering
consumers, and creating competitive incentives for wireless providers, to improve network
resiliency during emergencies. We seek input from all stakeholders on this proposal, and many
This item builds on the Commission's existing work to improve the reliability and
resiliency of the wireline communications networks that serve 9-1-1 call centers during disasters.
Today, we focus on improving the reliability and resiliency of the wireless networks that are used
to call 9-1-1 in the first place.
We cannot prevent disasters from happening. But we are hopeful that these actions can
help keep Americans safer when emergencies do occur. I thank David Turetsky and his talented
staff for crafting a thorough and well written NPRM. Again, I thank Michele Ellison and Louis
Peraertz for their efforts in coordinating with the staff and my colleagues' offices on this item.