Press Release Tech Transitions

Public Knowledge Urges FCC to Use California Wildfire Field Hearing to Launch New Rulemaking to Protect Networks During Disasters

February 28, 2020 , , , , , ,

Today, reports indicate that the Federal Communications Commission will hold a field hearing in California to discuss how last year’s wildfires affected communications networks in the state. The news follows letters from both Representatives Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) urging the agency to hold such a hearing. Public Knowledge commends the FCC for taking action and urges the agency to require carriers to better maintain their networks to leave no American behind in the network transition to fiber — or disconnected.

The following can be attributed to Lindsay Stern, Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:

“We applaud the FCC’s plan to hold a field hearing in California to see firsthand the challenges communities are facing with their communications networks after the recent wildfires and other natural disasters. We hope that a field hearing can help inform the FCC of how to minimize communications outages in the future as it reviews the voluntary Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework. We also want to thank Rep. McNerney for championing this issue on behalf of Californians affected by this tragedy as well as his commitment to strengthen our communications networks before Americans experience a natural disaster. 

“While a field hearing is a step in the right direction, there is much more that needs to be done. The current FCC has spent the last several years deregulating the telecommunications industry, resulting in the decline of our national critical communications infrastructure. With wildfires and other natural disasters continuing to be more deadly, along with an increased reliance on wireless cellular devices, network resiliency has become a question of life or death

“Congress and the FCC must ensure that telecommunications companies strengthen their wireless networks and emergency preparedness. A lack of network maintenance has contributed to lengthy outages for wireless customers and emergency responders, who cannot make or receive calls and texts when environmental events disrupt cellular service. This is unacceptable.

We call upon the FCC to update its framework for disaster response and to require telecommunications companies to better maintain their communication networks. We must hold the FCC accountable that it fulfills its word on holding a field hearing. We also urge Congress to pass Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. McNerney’s RESILIENT Networks Act, which aims to improve network resiliency in times of emergency.”

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