FCC Commissioners Want to Avoid Utility, Telecom Crew Face-Off

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FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly (left) and Brendan Carr

Trying to avoid needless fiber cuts after a major storm is a goal for the FCC. Chairman Ajit Pai recently formed a new working group for the agency’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee to develop recommendations for network restoration and resiliency. Commissioner Brendan Carr said after last Thursday’s FCC meeting, some 7,000 restoration personnel were in Florida when he was there after Hurricane Michael.

A lot of the network fiber survived the hurricane and subsequent storm surge, but telecoms complained of needless fiber cuts hampering restoration efforts, Inside Towers reported. O’Rielly said the situation improved after phone calls and face-to-face meetings between utility and telecom executives.

Saying his mom lives in the area affected by the hurricane, O’Rielly said the agency heard stories about “needless cuts” with “powercos powering through at will. They have communication companies sitting right there saying, ‘please don’t do this, we just fixed this,’ and they do it anyway.” He and Carr agreed the agency needs to figure out a better way to ensure network resiliency post-storm. Carr hasn’t determined if regulation needs to be developed to fix this situation.

O’Rielly is in contact with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to see what can be done. “We can’t have power companies and telecoms facing off in the street” after a storm, he said. But he also acknowledged that planning can only accomplish so much. “Some storms will topple towers. There’s only so much in terms of requirements we can impose.” Comments? Email us.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

November 20, 2018

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