FCC Rules That Cellular Operators Must Help Each Other During Disasters • The Register

The Federal Communications Commission today issued rules codifying a 2016 voluntary agreement between cellular networks covering them for their competitors going offline during a natural or cyber disaster.

The Mandatory Disaster Response Initiative (MDRI) requires all facility-based mobile network operators, defined as those that own and operate their own network infrastructure, to enter into mutual support agreements with other facility-based operators, and also expands some provisions of the 2016 Wireless Resiliency Cooperative Framework (WRCF) so that the MDRI can be activated more easily than its voluntary predecessor.

The WRCF included provisions that were incorporated into the MDRI: that telecom giants must provide roaming connectivity to each other’s users when possible, in disaster situations when required; that telecommunications “promotes mutual assistance in emergencies”; Assisting in community preparation and restoration efforts; and creating a system to improve public awareness of communications services and disaster recovery status.

When it was a voluntary framework, the WRCF could only be activated in one narrow scenario: when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated it Emergency Support Feature #2 (ESF-2) [PDF], a program that helps restore damaged communications infrastructure; and only if activated in conjunction with the FCCs Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), a web-based platform used in emergencies to coordinate the status and recovery of communication networks.

The MDRI, on the other hand, can be enacted when either ESF-2 or DIRS is activated, or when the chief of the Bureau of Public Safety and Homeland Security orders its activation in response to requests from states that have activated their own emergency operations centers.

The FCC said it was still considering whether to expand the MDRI “to entities other than facility-based wireless carriers and outside of the wireless industry at large,” but did not specify what other entities or types these might be included.

One group included despite complaints from the Rural Broadband Association and the Competitive Carriers Association are small carriers, which the FCC defines as those employing fewer than 1,500 people. Objections have been raised because small providers “need to prioritize working on their own networks or lack the resources needed to comply in the midst of emergencies,” the US regulator said, but added, “We note that such Concerns that may arise in practice are alleviated.”

The new MDRI regulation goes into effect on October 31, and facility-based wireless carriers will have six months from that date to demonstrate compliance, while small carriers will have an additional three months to get their homes in order for a natural or other disaster . ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/09/30/fcc_cell_phone_emergency/ FCC Rules That Cellular Operators Must Help Each Other During Disasters • The Register

Laura Coffey

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