Today the Commission initiated a comprehensive examination of the reliability and resiliency of communications networks, including broadband networks, particularly their ability to provide services during major emergencies, such as natural or man-made disasters.
The recent events in Japan illustrate the importance of resilient critical infrastructure. No one would disagree that communications services are critical and central to our lives. This is so because of how many segments of our Nation’s economy are dependent on resilient communications services, and because most aspects of our daily lives seem to revolve around access to communications services.
If you get a call to come pick your child up from school because he or she isn’t feeling well, and you ask that homework assignments be emailed to you, and then stop at the pharmacy on the way home and purchase medicine by swiping a card, you’ve consumed communications services in three different ways, each important to you. Worse still, try to imagine the value you would place on being able to contact your family in the wake of a disaster. Now, imagine a scenario where your child – or your spouse – needs urgent or life-saving attention. Can you reach 9-1-1? Does the ambulance have the information to know exactly how to find you? Can the emergency room doctor receive medical records transmitted electronically to hasten treatment? The stakes of reliable communications rise greatly where protection of human lives is involved.
We must do the work to understand the ability of our communications infrastructure to provide service in the face of equipment or system failure, whatever the cause and whatever the platform. Perhaps there are measures we can recommend, or even require, that will help ensure a reliable and resilient network under normal conditions and give us the best chance of experiencing continuity of services in dire situations.
Against this backdrop, by today’s Notice of Inquiry, the Commission begins a dialog with all of the stakeholders in these issues. We look forward to hearing your views.