FCC Order Will Help Keep Americans Connected When Disaster Strikes, But More Must Be Done

The new Order makes the current voluntary industry framework under which wireless carriers support each other following natural disasters mandatory to help keep Americans connected in their time of need.

Today, the Federal Communications Commission released an Order to protect the public from wireless outages following natural disasters. The Order makes the current voluntary industry framework under which wireless carriers support each other following natural disasters mandatory. The Order also makes important changes to improve the framework. 

Under the new framework, wireless carriers must have roaming agreements in place so that any carrier with a network outage caused by a natural disaster can get voice roaming on any carrier that is still operational, and render whatever other mutual aid to each they can reasonably provide during emergencies. The Order also establishes new “triggers” for when these obligations go into place so that obligations for cooperation go into effect as soon as disaster strikes. Public Knowledge applauds the FCC for taking action to keep Americans connected during disasters.

The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“Natural disasters are the enemy of all mankind. When they strike, companies must set aside commercial rivalries and work together to protect their local communities. This Order will help to keep all wireless subscribers in contact with emergency services and their loved ones during natural disasters and in their aftermath. As long as there is one network standing, any wireless subscriber will be able to make a call even if the carrier they subscribe to is down.

“Just as companies must set aside commercial rivalries in natural disasters, politicians and government officials must put aside partisan rivalries when wildfires or hurricanes threaten us all. Public Knowledge applauds Chairwoman Rosenworcel and Commissioner Carr for their cooperation to make this Order happen.

“To be clear, while this item is an important milestone, more must be done. In response to the FCC’s inquiry on network resilience following Hurricane Ida, Public Knowledge filed comments urging the FCC to expand the framework beyond wireless carriers to include all communications providers, and to require carriers to provide sufficient backup power to keep functioning in the face of extended blackouts. We look forward to continuing to work with the FCC and Congress to continue to harden and upgrade our critical communications infrastructure.”

Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at shiva@publicknowledge.org or 405-249-9435.