The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released a report on its investigation into carriers’ preparation for and response to Hurricane Michael. The probe found three key factors—insufficiently resilient backhaul connectivity, inadequate reciprocal roaming arrangements, and lack of coordination between wireless service providers, power crews, and municipalities—were the predominant causes of what the agency characterizes as, “unacceptably slow restoration of wireless service in the Florida Panhandle” following the devastating 2018 storm.
Indeed, the investigation found recovery efforts themselves often led to communications outages. There were numerous cases in which a carrier restored service to customers only to have that service brought down as third-party crews damaged fiber while clearing trash or restoring power lines and utility poles. As the report concludes, “Such lack of coordination among wireless providers, utilities, and debris clearance crews unnecessarily prolonged the time customers lacked service.”
To improve recovery efforts from future storms, the report recommends that:
- Wireless providers in hurricane-prone areas sign roaming agreements as part of their pre-storm preparation processes.
- Communications providers and power companies in hurricane-prone areas develop coordination agreements regarding mutual preparation and restoration efforts that can be activated when a storm strikes.
- Wireless providers use diverse backhaul options, such as microwave links and satellite links in hurricane-prone areas.
- Communications providers participate in training to improve coordination of restoration efforts.
- Wireless providers ensure familiarity with applicable best practices, especially as they relate to cooperation and coordination with local utilities.
Last fall, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai charged the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau with conducting a comprehensive re-examination of the Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework. Thursday’s report from the bureau will help inform that broader review, which is currently underway. Read the Hurricane Michael Report at: https://www.fcc.gov/michael/
May 10, 2019