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FCC Probes the Wireless Fallout From Superstorm Sandy

Dan Jones
2/5/2013
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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is holding field hearings Tuesday on how to better protect communications in the wake of a massive storm like October's Superstorm Sandy. The hearing is giving the commissioners the opportunity to air some of the questions that Light Reading Mobile has examined since the storm -- chiefly, how best to ensure continued communications after a disaster in an increasing wireless world. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel asked how to maintain connectivity for a population where one in three households relies exclusively on wireless phones and the towers that serve them are dependent on commercial power. After Sandy, one in four wireless towers in the affected areas was out of service. "How do we ensure that backup power is where it needs to be and that providers have access to fuel for generators?" she asked in her public statement. "And how do we help make sure that consumers are prepared, too -- with backup batteries or solar chargers?" Commissioner Ajit Pai noted that even backup generators wouldn't be able to withstand being flooded out. He suggested it may be time to look at ways to get wireless operators and utilities to communicate better after a disaster, particularly as they often share poles and other infrastructure. "In Sandy's aftermath, for example, I have heard complaints that local power companies would not coordinate with network operators," Pai said. "If this is true, it has to change." The commissioners say they want to learn from the testimony of witnesses talking at the hearings in New York and New Jersey today. It remains to be seen exactly how much the commission can change in regards to better backup for cellular service. After Hurricane Katrina, the FCC tried to mandate a minimum of eight hours battery backup for cell towers, but some U.S. operators said that the cost was prohibitive and sued to stop the ruling. The jury also still appears to be out on the best way to address the backup options. See below for our previous coverage on the issue of battery backup and the possible end of iron-clad carrier of last resort (COLR) rules, and weigh in with your thoughts. For more

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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