Press Release Tech Transitions

Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld to Testify Before Senate Commerce on Building Resilient Networks

June 22, 2021 ,

Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband this Tuesday, June 22 at 2:30 p.m. His testimony in the hearing on “Building Resilient Networks” will argue that our networks have grown increasingly fragile, and that it’s time for Congress to act to once again make our communications networks reliable for consumers — and the envy of the world.

The following is an excerpt from the testimony:

“Consumers and businesses expect a reliable communications network. In fact, our economy depends on it. But our very lives depend on reaching emergency responders every time we call 911. In disasters, the ability of first responders to communicate instantly with the public and with each other can mean the difference between life and death. In theory, upgrading our nation’s communications networks to internet protocol (IP) should enhance resiliency… [i]nstead of proving more resilient, our networks have grown increasingly fragile.

“[O]utages have also grown longer in duration, especially when they are the result of a natural disaster or involve a concurrent failure of the electric grid. In addition to outages caused by natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes, outages can occur when telephone infrastructure is targeted in physical attacks, or from cybersecurity attacks.

“Unfortunately, outages can occur as a consequence of technical issues and carrier neglect, as well as from external events. In 2014, a ‘preventable coding error’ in a single router in Washington State resulted in a 911 failure covering more than 11 million people. In 2020, a server failure in Georgia resulted in a multi-state blackout of T-Mobile’s network. In other places, carriers have allowed legacy infrastructure to rot. In too many rural areas and small towns in America, people cannot reliably reach 911 on a good day, let alone in the wake of a catastrophe.

“In the 20th century, our telecommunications infrastructure was the envy of the world. We reached 98% of the population with reliable, affordable voice service. Today, we have communities that lack basic phone service, and those who have access to modern networks can wake even on a sunny day to find themselves cut off from vital services for no apparent reason — and for an unknown time.

“Only Congress can remedy this situation. [I]t is unrealistic to expect the market to solve this [problem] on its own. Widespread deregulation of IP-based services at the state level and by the Federal Communications Commission has [muddied] the overall authority of the agency and the states to ensure network reliability. Happily, the current transition of our national wireline networks to all-IP systems, and our deployment of 5G wireless networks, provides an ideal opportunity for Congress to act. As we upgrade to an all-IP framework, retire legacy copper networks, and build out 5G, we can upgrade our resiliency standards to take advantage of the new technical capacities of these networks.”

You may view the testimony for more details. You may also view our latest blog post, “The California Wildfires Show Why We Need a National Backup Power Mandate to Keep Americans Connected During Disasters” for more information on the importance of network resiliency and backup power mandates.