FCC Votes to Mandate Outage Reporting by Wireless, Cable, Wireline, and Interconnected VoIP Service Providers During Disasters; Seeks Comment on Requiring Broadband Internet Access Service Providers and TV/Radio Broadcasters to Do the Same
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) voted unanimously on Thursday to adopt the Second Report and Order and Second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requiring additional types of telecom providers to report network outages during disasters to the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS).
The new rules require cable, wireline, wireless, and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to submit daily reports to DIRS while it is active in the areas they serve. Previously, those types of providers reported outage information voluntarily. To prevent redundancy, these providers will not have to report to both DIRS and the existing Network Outage Reporting System simultaneously.
Further, the FCC seeks comment on the potential expansion of these reporting requirements to radio and television broadcasters, satellite providers, and broadband Internet access service (BIAS) providers.
The vote comes in response to inconsistent and incomplete data received by the agency regarding disaster-related outages. FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel emphasized the critical importance of this data, stating that gaps in reporting are unacceptable and hinder emergency response efforts.
In order to stay informed about the operational status of critical communication networks, the Commission gathers information through its Network Outage Reporting System (NORS) and the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). Mandatory reporting in NORS is required for certain communication providers when outages reach specific duration and magnitude thresholds. During disasters, DIRS may be activated to collect voluntary information specific to the impacts of the incident, such as hurricanes. However, the Commission has identified information gaps due to the voluntary nature of DIRS, leading to providers choosing not to file. Additionally, some communication providers are not obligated to file in NORS, further contributing to information gaps regarding overall network health.
What the Rules Would Do:
- Require cable, wireline, wireless, and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to report their infrastructure status information in DIRS daily during the reporting period when the Commission activates DIRS in geographic areas in which they provide service.
- Suspend NORS reporting obligations when providers are required to report in DIRS during a disaster, so they are not obligated to report twice.
- Require DIRS filers to provide a single, final summary DIRS report to the Commission, within 24 hours of the Commission’s deactivation of DIRS.
The effective date of the new rules is the later of (i) November 30, 2024 or (ii) 30 days after the Commission issues a Public Notice announcing that OMB has completed review of any new information collection requirements associated with today’s Second Report and Order. The Commission selected the November 30, 2024 date for mandated DIRS reporting to go into effect as this should give the providers enough time to comply and ensures that the mandated DIRS reporting is in place for the entirety of the 2025 hurricane season.
What the FCC Seeks Comment On:
- Whether to require TV and radio broadcasters, satellite providers, and broadband Internet access service (BIAS) providers to report in NORS and/or DIRS.
- The extent to which the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) should be subject to NORS and/or DIRS reporting.
- Whether providers should be required to supply the Commission with “after action” reports detailing how their networks fared during the emergency or disaster event.
- Whether providers should be required to report the location of mobile recovery assets during a disaster response, as well other specifications of those assets.
- The deadline for filing comments will be 30 days (and the reply comments will be due 60 days) from the publication in the Federal Register.
The comments are due 30 days (and the reply comments – 60 days) from the publication of the Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register.
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