Towers Need Power: Bill Requires Telecoms to Prepare Backups During Outages


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Last week’s planned blackouts in California by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. cut power to more than homes and businesses. At one point nearly one-quarter, or 44, of Humboldt County’s cell towers, were not operational, reported the Times-Standard.

The tower outages caused frustration over lost calls and the inability to obtain real-time information about the imposed blackout.

Now, state Sen. Mike McGuire is proposing a bill to the California legislature that would require telecommunications companies to have backup systems for their wireless towers in areas at high-risk for fires, including areas affected by any pre-emptive power shutoffs. SB 431 would require backup power systems to be up and running in “no less than 48 hours,” according to the text. Additionally, the legislation would mandate a system to notify a customer of the backup power status, per the Times-Standard.

“Our phones have become our lifeline,” McGuire said in a prepared statement. “It’s how we keep in touch with the rest of the world and how we receive emergency alerts. Telecom executives assured us this worst-case scenario, hundreds of cell towers ‘going down’ (i.e., losing power’) due to the lack of power, wouldn’t happen. It’s simply not true. It’s time California steps up and mandates cell towers have backup power.”

The tower outages affected several counties, including Humboldt County. In Sonoma County, 118 towers were inoperable; and in Marin, another 160 towers were inoperable for a certain period. Based on these numbers, McGuire stressed the importance of his bill, according to the Times-Standard.

 “This bill isn’t about checking your Facebook status,” McGuire added. “It’s about life and death.”

November 6, 2019

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