FCC Sandy field hearings emphasize modernizing infrastructure
At Tuesday's Superstorm Sandy field hearings, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made it clear the wireless communication outages experienced during the storm couldn't happen again.
"The inability to communicate with family and emergency personnel during a disaster is simply unacceptable," he said.
When Sandy hit the U.S. East Coast last summer, approximately 25 percent of cell sites across 10 states were rendered inoperational, a statistic Genachowski reiterated in his statement.
He went on to state that the four core goals that Tuesday's hearings were meant to address were improving network resiliency, improving restoration, empowering the public and unleashing technological solutions. Genachowski noted the Commission had taken steps toward launching wireless emergency alerts, facilitating text-to-911 and improving location accuracy for 911. He also mentioned the Commission's efforts to drive private investment in network infrastructure, pointing out total investments in wireline and wireless broadband infrastructure topped $60 billion in 2012.
Commissioner Ajit Pai cited several specific examples of improvements that he said had to be made, including moving to "Next Generation 911" as the IP transition comes to emergency services and the need to provide timely emergency information over the airwaves.
The hearings convened a number of panels, with the late afternoon session featuring William L. Smith, president of network operations for AT&T.
AT&T was forced to reduce its 2012 fourth-quarter operating income by $175 million in direct response to expenses relating to Sandy.
The company issued a blog yesterday outlining its preparations for and response to Sandy detailing the deployment of emergency communications vehicles, Cells-on-Wheels (COWs), satellite Cells-on-Light-Trucks (COLTs), more than 3,000 generators and a large number of fuel tanker trucks.
"This was a monumental effort by AT&T to ensure that our customers had the best communications network possible," AT&T said.
Genachowski said that the FCC plans to hold further hearings on emergency preparedness in New Jersey in the coming weeks, as well as in other parts of the country.