FCC to probe how wireless carriers respond to natural disasters

Hurricane Michael. 

NOAA

After devastating hurricanes, the Federal Communications Commission is examining how well wireless companies prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday launched a review of the Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework, a voluntary industry commitment to “promote resilient wireless communications and situational awareness during disasters.”  

“The American people expect quick and effective recoveries from natural disasters like Hurricane Michael and other storms,” said Pai in a release. “That’s why we are re-examining the last administration’s framework to make sure all wireless carriers are meeting communities’ needs and doing everything they can to promptly restore service after a natural disaster.”

The review comes after Hurricane Michael knocked out power for hundreds of thousands residents in Florida last month. The 155 mile-per-hour winds also ripped apart fiber networks that were used to deliver broadband and mobile service to the region. In the same month, Pai asked carriers to waive bills for victims of this disaster and allow them to change carriers without penalty.

Lisa Fowlkes, bureau chief of public safety and homeland security at the FCC, sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, US Cellular, T-Mobile, GCI and Southern Linc seeking information on how they’ve implemented the framework to respond to emergencies over the past two years. This includes lists of mutual aid and roaming agreements carriers have with each other, according to the release.

The review aims to enhance carriers’ preparedness, restoration and coordination in response to natural disasters like hurricanes, according to the letter.

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