Reliability and Continuity of Communications Networks, Including Broadband Technologies
By this Notice of Inquiry (“Notice”), we seek comment on a broad range of issues regarding the reliability and resiliency of our Nation’s communications networks. Specifically, we consolidate several lines of inquiry broadly derived from initiatives set forth in the National Broadband Plan (“NBP”) regarding the reliability and continuity of our Nation’s communications infrastructure, including broadband networks. Among other matters, the NBP identified the inadequacy of backup power and insufficient communications backhaul redundancy as key factors that contribute to the congestion or failure of commercial wireless data networks, particularly during emergencies such as large-scale natural and man-made disasters. The NBP also recommended that the Commission engage in an exploration of the reliability and resiliency standards being applied to broadband networks in order to ascertain what action, if any, the Commission should take to bolster the reliability of broadband infrastructures.
In this Notice, we initiate a comprehensive examination of issues regarding the reliability, resiliency and continuity of communications networks, including broadband technologies. First, we explore the ability of communications networks to provide continuity of service during major emergencies, such as large-scale natural and man-made disasters. Next, we consider issues related to broadband network reliability and resiliency in the context of whether standards might be needed to ensure adequate levels of service to meet public safety and other critical infrastructure needs. Third, we discuss what actions, if any, the Commission should take to foster improved performance with respect to the reliability and continuity of operations. Fourth, we seek comment on the sources of legal authority that could provide the basis for Commission action. Finally, we seek comment on whether, for the reasons discussed below, we should consolidate two of the above-captioned proceedings -- PS Docket 10-92 (Effects on Broadband Communications Networks of Damage or Failure of Network Equipment or Severe Overload), and EB Docket 06-119 (Independent Panel Reviewing the Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Communications Networks -- into this proceeding. Were we to consolidate these proceedings into this Notice, we seek comment on whether we should then terminate those two proceedings. If we decide to terminate those proceedings, we would consider the record in those proceedings, to the extent relevant, in this proceeding.
We address the matters raised herein against the backdrop of today’s increasingly interconnected world, one in which communications services, including broadband technologies, play a critical role in all segments of our Nation’s society and economy. As the communications infrastructure migrates from older technologies to broadband technology, critical communications services will be carried over a communications network infrastructure that may or may not be built to the high carrier grade standards of legacy wireline systems. This potential for differences in service reliability could be a major source of concern for critical sectors, such as energy and public safety, and for consumers in general.