Sen. Booker, Chairman Wheeler exchange letters on fiber network back-up batteries

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler exchanged letters over an important issue concerning the technology transition from copper to fiber networks: back-up batteries.


Because copper networks carry their own electricity, local power outages don’t usually prevent access to communications services. Fiber networks don’t work the same way, so if local power goes out, a back-up battery is necessary for communications service to function. But customers must bear the cost of those batteries, and for vulnerable communities that need constant access to voice and emergency services, a back-up battery can be both vital and unaffordable.


In a letter to Chairman Wheeler, Sen. Booker highlighted past technology transitions, advocated for low-income consumers, and requested the FCC “examine the consequences of power outages through the IP transition and make recommendations to Congress on how the public and private sectors can support emergency backup batteries to ensure individuals with new fiber connections have emergency power in the event of a storm or outage.”


“Such connectivity,” he concluded, “will allow individuals and families to access critical service such as 911 if and when disaster strikes.”


In his response to the letter, Chairman Wheeler discussed an order adopted by the FCC in August that requires carriers to inform customers of the availability of back-up batteries with at least eight hours of use. But he acknowledged that there is more to do, writing: “We especially look forward to working with Congress in crafting workable solutions for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens and in recommending how public and private sectors can support emergency backup power options.”


Speed Matters supports legislation that will provide a subsidies to low-income households to purchased back-up batteries, truly ensuring the technology transition is both safe and fair.

Letter exchange between Sen. Booker and Chairman Wheeler (FCC, Oct. 26, 2015)

 

FCC Adopts Rules to Help Americans Communicate During Emergencies (FCC, Aug. 6, 2015)