Lack of coordination major factors in restoring consumer communications services
On May 9th, the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau today released its report on Hurricane Michael’s impact on communications.
The Bureau found three key factors that were the cause of lack of service to consumers: insufficiently resilient backhaul, inadequate reciprocal roaming arrangements, and lack of coordination between wireless service providers, power crews, and municipalities.
While pre-storm preparations by wireless service providers allowed for rapid restoration of power to cell sites, backhaul recovery took significant longer for some areas. Most importantly, backhaul recovery was further hampered by a lack of coordination between backhaul providers, electrical utility crews and debris removal crews. In some cases, where services were restored, backhaul systems were re-damaged by utility and debris removal reviews. Because of this lack of coordination, service outages were extended.
9-1-1 PSAPs destroyed, calls rerouted
The FCC report notes that while several 9-1-1 PSAPs were affected by Hurricane Michael, the impact on the ability for 9-1-1 calls to be delivered to PSAPs was minimal. In Bay County, Florida, two of its PSAPs, the Springfield Police Department & Fire Department and Lynn Haven Police Department & Fire were destroyed. 9-1-1 calls for Springfield were rerouted to Bay County 9-1-1. Meanwhile, Lynn Haven moved their PSAP to trailers and were able to receive 9-1-1 calls without automatic location information (ALI).
The FCC recommendations in the report focus on two critical areas to improve recovery efforts in future disaster scenarios: backhaul and cellular roaming.
- communications providers participate in training activities with state Emergency Operations Centers and within working groups of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners to improve coordination of restoration activities.
- the Commission increase coordination with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to identify ways for Federal regulators to harmonize restoration practices across sectors.
- wireless providers use diverse backhaul options, such as microwave links and satellite links, in hurricane-prone areas.
- wireless providers ensure familiarity with applicable best practices, especially as they relate to cooperation and coordination with local utilities.
- communications providers and power companies in hurricane-prone areas enter into coordination agreements regarding mutual preparation and restoration efforts that can be activated when a storm strikes
- all wireless providers should establish clauses in their commercial roaming agreements in hurricane-prone areas that would enable activation of roaming prior to a storm’s landfall.
- Framework signatories take full advantage of the types of disaster-related roaming agreements envisioned as the first principle of the Framework.
- wireless mobile providers in a shared market should establish appropriate roaming agreements as part of their pre-storm provisioning process.
Click here for the FCC’s full report.