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FCC: Are Broadband Networks in the United States Resillent Enough?

Field Hearings Scheduled in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which caused more than $30 billion in damage, including broadband infrastructure, the FCC will hold hearings to determine the resiliency of broadband networks in the United States. Hurricane Sandy is estimated to have caused over $30 billion in damages, including damages to broadband and cellular network infrastructure, leaving many customers in New York and New Jersey without broadband service to access the Internet for important news and information about relief and restoration efforts.

Many residents of New York City and New Jersey woke up the morning after the superstorm hit to find massive communication failures making them unable to find critical information about relief and restoration efforts. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the FCC will hold multiple field hearings to address all the questions related to disaster planning, service outages and service restoration efforts.

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All four of the major telecommunication companies in New York City and New Jersey said subscribers in various parts of their service territories hit experienced storm related outages. In New York City, residents in downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens reported widespread outages, which caused Verizon to report that workers have completed 364,000 post-storm repairs across the regions damaged by the storm, and more than 1.4 million customers impacted by power outages have had their FiOS services restored.

According to the FCC, hearings will begin early in 2012 across the country, starting in New York City. New York Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), had called upon the FCC to work with federal, state and local stakeholders to devise a comprehensive plan for disasters and other emergencies. senator Schumer cited storm statistics indicating 25% of the cell towers in the ten state area affected by the storm were out of operation after the storm passed.

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Senator Schumer stressed the importance of the FCC field hearings to assess notwork resiliency and prepare for future emergencies:

"Field hearings will increase our understanding of the problems encountered during Superstorm Sandy and harvest the best ideas to ensure that mobile phone service doesn't fail after future storms. Mobile communication has become an essential part of our lives, and increasing its reliability must be a top priority. I'd like to thank Chairman Genachowski and the FCC for their good work during the storm, and for beginning to tackle this important issue so quickly after."

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According to FCC Chairman Genachowski:

"This unprecedented storm has revealed new challenges that will require a national dialogue around ideas and actions to ensure the resilience of communications networks," said Genachowski in announcing the hearings. "As our thoughts and sympathies remain with those who have suffered loss and damage as a result of Superstorm Sandy, I urge all stakeholders to engage constructively in the period ahead." He also thanked Schumer for his leadership.

According to Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, more work needs to be done to provide an "honest accounting" of the resiliency of communications networks.

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The FCC Notice of Inquiry (NOI) describes the nature of the hearings as a way to explore a broad range of issues regarding the reliability and resiliency of our Nation’s communications networks. The issues identified in the National Broadband Plan regarding network reillency included the inadequacy of backup power and insufficient communications backhaul redundancy as key factors contributing to the congestion or failure of commercial wireless data networks, particularly during emergencies such as large-scale natural and man-made disasters. The National Broadband Plan also recommended that the Commission engage in an exploration of the reliability and resiliency standards being applied to broadband networks in order to ascertain what action, if any, the Commission should take to bolster the reliability of broadband infrastructures.

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