Hurricane destruction highlights need for regulatory oversight, advocates say

In a meeting at the FCC, advocates from the Communications Workers of America, Public Knowledge, and the National Association of Utility Consumer Advocates urged the Commission to preserve current copper retirement and notification rules. The importance of these rules is brought into stark relief following natural disasters. The rules “allow the Commission to ensure that communities who have lost landline service due to the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey are not left with a substitute service that does not meet their needs,” the advocates said.

To demonstrate their point, the advocates highlighted the conditions of Verizon’s network on Fire Island, NY following Hurricane Sandy. “Due to the storm, Verizon replaced its copper network with VoiceLink,” they said. “Many essential services such as credit card readers, fax machines, and alarm systems did not reliably work despite the expectation of consumers and small businesses.”

Commissioner Rosenworcel called on the FCC to study the effects of Hurricane Harvey on communications infrastructure: “That report must include a full plan for fixing the vulnerabilities that we are finding – from overloading 911 systems to out-of-service cell sites,” the Commissioner wrote. “It should also include a framework for rebuilding so that the communities that have been impacted are not permanently relegated to the wrong side of the digital divide.”

The Commission is currently considering changes to its recently adopted copper retirement and notification rules. In short, changes  would allow broadband providers to weaken or eliminate essential consumer protections, endanger public and worker safety, and undermine universal service obligations.

 

Links:

PK, CWA, and NASUCA ex parte on copper retirement rules (FCC, Aug. 30, 2017)

Statement from Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel Calling on FCC to Study Hurricane Harvey’s Impact on Communications Infrastructure (FCC, Sept. 5, 2017)

FCC requires 90 days advance notice before copper retirement (Speed Matters, Mar. 24, 2016)

CWA urges FCC to preserve regulations that protect copper network customers (Speed Matters, June 16, 2017)