Chairman: FCC Promotes a More Resilient, Reliable 9-1-1 System
CHAIRMAN JULIUS GENACHOWSKIRe:
Proposed Extension of Part 4 of the Commission's Rules Regarding Outage Reporting to
Interconnected Voice Over Internet Protocol Service Providers and Broadband Internet
Service Providers, PS Docket No. 11-82
The recent devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan as well as the severe tornadoes
that ravaged our South two weeks ago are reminders of how vital our communications networks
are to everyday life. They also remind us how important it is that our communications networks
are reliable and resilient in emergencies.
When disaster strikes, the public must be able to make emergency calls to summon help,
particularly those facing life-threatening situations.
The FCC, along with our federal, state, and local partners, has important responsibilities
to ensure that our country's critical communications infrastructure remains working in times of
crisis. Our current outage reporting requirements have been remarkably successful.
Within hours of Hurricane Katrina hitting land in 2005, the Commission's outage
reporting data quickly became the federal government's best source of information about the
conditions of critical communications infrastructure in the disaster area. This information
improved first responders' situational awareness, helping them quickly understand the damage
that had occurred and speed their response.
Our outage reporting requirements have also helped us make our nation's 9-1-1 system
more reliable and resilient. Every day, more than 2 billion calls travel over America's
communications network. Compiling and analyzing outage reporting information from these
networks has helped refine industry best practices, which in turn has reduced the number of
communications outages across several categories.
In the wireline category alone, our outage reporting requirements have reduced the
estimated number of lost 9-1-1 calls by approximately 50 percent from their 2008 peak. Using
reported information, Commission staff has been able to contact affected providers and establish
The American communications landscape is changing. Unfortunately, our existing outage
reporting requirements extend only to services delivered over legacy communications
technologies like traditional landline phones connected by copper wire and not to service
delivered over broadband platforms, like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
American consumers, businesses, and government increasingly rely on broadband
networks and services, and broadband networks today carry a substantial volume of 9-1-1 traffic.
Since 2005, the Commission has required providers of interconnected VoIP services to supply 9-
1-1 emergency calling capabilities to their customers as a mandatory feature of the service.
Today, nearly thirty percent of residential calls are made over VoIP and other broadband-based
So, if Hurricane Katrina were to happen again, or if there was another attack on
American soil, we simply wouldn't have the facts to ascertain the impact on our critical
communications infrastructure. We wouldn't know if people could call their hospital, their fire
station or their local police department to get help.
The Communications Act assigns the FCC important responsibilities with respect to
public safety communications. Our proposal today is also about fulfilling the critical role that the
Commission has been assigned in the Nation's emergency preparedness and response efforts. A
Presidential Directive directs the Commission to "ensure continuous operations and reconstitution
of critical communications and services." A key component of living up to this responsibility is
knowing when and where the communications infrastructure is not working.
The recent events in Japan confirm the importance of tracking and analyzing significant
broadband outages. The March earthquake and tsunami not only killed or injured thousands of
people in Japan, but also caused greater than $35 billion in property damage and extensive
damage to Japanese communications networks.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the FCC's Japanese counterpart,
collects information not only about significant wireline and wireless outages, but also broadband
outages. Because of this, immediately after the disaster, the Ministry was able to determine that
approximately 500,000 broadband circuits were disconnected or unavailable and take appropriate
As we consider the record that develops, we will be mindful of constraints providers face
as we have for years while implementing our existing outage reporting requirements while
seeking deeper understanding of how outages can be minimized and emergency communications
can be made more reliable.
These matters will become even more important as we transition to and implement Next
Generation 9-1-1, which is a priority for this Commission. The rules proposed in this item will
provide the FCC with better data to evaluate the current reliability of our 9-1-1 system, and
strengthen our nation's entire communications infrastructure. They represent another delivery on
the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan.
I thank the staff of our Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau and Office of
General Counsel for their excellent work on this item.
Note: We are currently transitioning our documents into web compatible formats for easier reading. We have done our best to supply this content to you in a presentable form, but there may be some formatting issues while we improve the technology. The original version of the document is available as a PDF, Word Document, or as plain text.