In this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), we propose to extend the outage reporting requirements in Part 4 of our rules to interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers and broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This action will help ensure that our current and future 9-1-1 systems are as reliable and resilient as possible and assist our Nation’s preparedness for man-made or natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. We seek comment on all aspects of this proposal to serve our role of protecting America’s critical infrastructure, including the definitions and thresholds that would trigger the reporting requirement.
Broadband technologies delivering communications services to end users have changed behaviors and revolutionized expectations in many aspects of American life and are fast becoming substitutes for communications services provided by older, legacy communications technologies. As of June 30, 2010, 28 percent of the more than 89 million residential telephone subscriptions were provided by interconnected VoIP providers —an increase of 27 percent (from 19.9 million to 25.2 million) in the last year. As part of the transformation that broadband services are making in the way American consumers, businesses, and governments operate, broadband networks now carry a substantial volume of 9-1-1 traffic. They are also a significant form of communications in times of crisis. Communications outages to broadband facilities, whether the result of physical hardware or software failures, natural disasters, or man-made disasters including cyber attacks, threaten the public’s ability to summon in emergency situations. The National Security and Emergency Preparedness posture of the United States depends on the availability of broadband communications during times of emergencies, and it is one of our core responsibilities as an agency.
Currently, only providers of legacy circuit-switched voice and/or paging communications over wireline, wireless, cable, and satellite communications services must report communications outages. Commission analysis of industry-wide outage reports has led to improvements in the engineering, provisioning, and deployment of communications infrastructure and services. The Commission has been able to share its analysis with members of industry, providing a picture of recurring problems nationwide that an individual provider cannot know itself. This process has also made communications networks more robust to the effects of natural or man-made disasters, thereby improving our Nation’s readiness posture. Reducing the number of communications outages greatly improves the resiliency of the communications critical infrastructure to withstand disruptions that would otherwise jeopardize the Nation’s ability to communicate during emergency events, including to the Nation’s 9-1-1 system.
In this proceeding , we seek to extend these benefits to the broadband communications networks frequently used for emergency response today. We propose to extend the Commission’s Part 4 outage reporting requirements to include both interconnected VoIP service providers and broadband ISPs. This change would allow the Commission, and other Federal agencies, to track and analyze information on outages affecting broadband networks. The availability of this information would also help the Commission determine the extent of the problem nationwide, identify recurring problems, determine whether action can be taken immediately to help providers recover or prevent future outages, and ensure to the extent possible that broadband networks are prepared for natural and man-made disasters. Our proposed action will allow the Commission to use the same successful process it currently uses with wireline and wireless providers to refine and develop best practices to prepare broadband communications networks better for emergency situations.