FCC might make carriers say how well they performed in disasters

The competitive disclosures were one possibility raised as the agency announced hearings in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission may seek to make carriers reveal how well their networks withstood major natural disasters so that consumers can compare rival providers.

That will be one topic on the agenda at a series of hearings that the agency plans next year on responses to disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. It announced plans for the hearings in a press release on Wednesday, saying they will begin in New York early next year and take place at other places around the U.S. that have suffered major natural disasters.

Most commercial mobile, broadband and cable networks suffered outages in the region hit by Sandy earlier this month. Particularly in the New York City area, mobile service was out for several days after the storm reached land. Carriers said commercial power outages, flooding of facilities and failure of wired backhaul connections contributed to the extended outages.

At the end of a long list of questions to be raised in the hearings, the FCC said, "Users of communications services appear to lack information about the performance of the services they pay for." It then asked whether consumers have enough information about services during emergencies.

"For example, would it help consumers to know the performance and reliability of the companies' service or devices as compared to competitors during past emergencies?" the agency asked.

The planned hearings will examine a broad range of issues, including carrier preparation for disasters, cooperation among service providers, backup power arrangements and faster recovery. The agency plans to include businesses, public safety officials, consumers, technical experts and others in the sessions.

"This unprecedented storm has revealed new challenges that will require a national dialogue around ideas and actions to ensure the resilience of communications networks," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement on Wednesday.

Among other issues it raised in the release, the agency noted that some carriers shared cell sites and other resources after the event and asked how they might set up sharing arrangements in the future. It also asked how wired transport networks could be better kept online to backhaul mobile traffic.

A key topic of the hearings will be the power to keep networks running, including the question of how long backup power sources should be expected to last. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the FCC proposed requirements for backup power on cellular networks, but the White House rejected those rules in 2008.

The agency also plans to ask whether networks could have been brought back more quickly and why some services had lower performance even after they were restored.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags telecommunicationCarriersregulationU.S. Federal Communications Commissionmobilegovernment

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?