Bill Pushes for Reliable Communication Backups During Planned Blackouts

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Last Friday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced in a filing that cellular and cable services should be secured during planned blackouts, reported The San Francisco Chronicle. Most importantly, cell and communication network services need to function from an emergency services standpoint, allowing people to call 911, receive push notifications associated with the emergency protocol, and access warnings online.

 State Senators Steve Glazer and Mike McGuire introduced SB 431, to ensure communication performance reliability and utilize solar power when possible. “What happened [this past fall regarding the planned outages] is completely unacceptable, and it put millions of lives at risk,” McGuire told the Chronicle.

During the planned blackouts last fall, 874 cell towers were offline, which affected two million Northern Californians, according to data from the FCC. Since planned outages are likely to continue as precautionary wildfire prevention, McGuire added, “[This bill is] about keeping the lifeline of millions of Californians up and running during sustained power outages, and that’s their cell phone.”    

The Chronicle reported that backups for California’s over 50,000 towers would each require a generator or solar grid to provide power during a blackout. Detailed documentation from all regional providers regarding plans to protect customers from a loss of service during this year’s upcoming planned outages is due by March 20. 

Regarding the next steps for SB 431, it’s currently in motion through the State Legislature. The bill may move to the CPCU by July 2021; however, the electric and communication utility board is aiming to expedite the process and widen some requirements this summer, reported the Chronicle. 

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