FCC Proposes Promoting Public Safety Through Federal-State Info Sharing

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The Commission proposed a framework for sharing detailed communications outage information with state and federal agencies to make it easier for them to respond more quickly to outages affecting their communities, and help save lives, while also preserving the confidentiality of this data. 

The agency supports the nation’s emergency response and preparedness efforts by collecting and providing accurate and timely information on the status of communications services and infrastructure through its Network Outage Reporting System (NORS) and Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). During disasters, the Commission makes this information available to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which uses it to assess the needs of affected areas and to coordinate emergency response efforts with state and local first responders.

The Commission’s experience with recent major outages—from the 2017 hurricanes, tornados, and flooding to power shutdowns in California and earthquakes in Puerto Rico—underscore the value of reliable and timely outage information and rapid restoration of disrupted communications. 

State and other government agencies play a crucial role in that restoration, according to the FCC. That’s why Commissioners a adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to provide direct, read-only access to NORS and DIRS filings to qualified agencies of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, tribal nations, territories, and federal government that reasonably require the information to prepare for or respond to an event that threatens public safety. 

The Commission’s proposal would allow participating agencies to share NORS and DIRS information with first responders and other government officials who play a vital public safety role in their jurisdictions during crises. Participating agencies would also be allowed to publicly disclose information that is appropriately aggregated and anonymized. To protect sensitive communications status data, participating agencies would be required to treat NORS and DIRS filings as confidential. 

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