The United States’ top wireless carriers have come together to form a “resiliency cooperative” as part of an effort to more quickly and efficiently prepare for and respond to network outages when disasters strike.
In coordination with CTIA and New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular have agreed on a “Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework” to foster network resiliency and recovery.
“I am pleased that CTIA and the wireless providers created a set of common-sense solutions to improve coordination and network recovery during disasters and emergencies,” CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said. “This Framework will benefit consumers and help limit the impact of future disasters, while avoiding unworkable and unnecessary mandates.”
Specifically, the initiative calls on the carriers to provide reasonable roaming in disaster situations when technically possible, foster mutual aid during emergencies, boost municipal preparedness and restoration, increase consumer readiness and improve public awareness of and participation in communication related to restoration efforts.
According to the framework, the disaster roaming provision would only apply for the duration of an event and would be “contingent on the requesting carrier taking all possible steps to restore service on its own network as quickly as possible.” The mutual aid outline in the framework includes “physical assets and necessary consultation where feasible.”
To improve municipal preparedness, the framework calls on the carriers to meet with a select number of local government officials by June 1, 2016 – the first day of hurricane season – to develop a best practices plan for coordination before, during and after emergencies.
To improve public awareness, the carriers have pledged to provide up-to-date contact information for a carrier database to help state representatives distribute accurate information to the public. Additionally, the carriers have committed to conducting disaster preparedness education for consumers via public service announcements, pamphlets and social media.
The carriers have also agreed to support the FCC in making outage data publicly available on its website on an aggregated, county-by-county basis for any geographic area in an activated disaster zone.
The agreement comes alongside approval from the Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday for Pallone’s Securing Access to Networks in Disasters, or SANDy, Act.
The bill, inspired by the breakdown of telecommunications networks in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, aims to improve resiliency of communication systems by increasing coordination between wireless carriers, utilities and public safety officials; making cross-network coverage available in emergency situations, especially for 911 calls and emergency alerts; beginning a process to provide 911 services over Wi-Fi hotspots during emergencies; speeding the repair of communication outages; and studying the future of network resiliency.
Following the announcement of the voluntary resiliency framework from CTIA and the U.S. carriers, Pallone said he planned to offer an amendment to remove the wireless provisions from the SANDy Act.