NTIA Seeks Emergency Government Access to Wireless Networks

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the president’s adviser on domestic and international telecommunications policy, asked the FCC to update its rules to enable the federal government to have priority access to wireless operators’ networks during emergencies. The rules governing Wireless Priority Service (WPS) have not been updated since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

NTIA filed a Petition for Rulemaking on Monday on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), which manages priority telecommunications programs. Many of the requests seek to align the Commission’s rules with OEC’s business practices and capabilities, but also include increased WPS capabilities.

The information collected should extend beyond voice call data, according to NTIA. It asks the FCC to allow “WPS voice calls for a small subset of high-priority WPS users, if needed, to preempt or degrade in-progress, non-911 calls.” NTIA also hopes to modify the rules to reflect “authorities, organizations and requirements” that didn’t exist when the rules were last approved.

Citing the need to assess the adequacy of the WPS, NTIA asks the FCC to direct service providers to submit “call detail records” and other data to OEC. “OEC will handle this information with the same confidentiality as Personally Identifiable Information,” states NTIA in the filing.

July 12, 2018

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