Emergency Communications

The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Huricane Katrina and other man-made and natural disasters often reveal flaws in emergency communications systems. Here we attempt to chart the effects of disasters on our telecommunications and media communications systems -- and efforts by policymakers to stregthen these systems.

A dangerous side of America’s digital divide: Who receives emergency alerts

While America’s digital divide has been improving, large chunks of the country, especially rural and tribal lands, are still lagging behind in connection, according to research and experts, and that significantly hampers their access to vital, potentially lifesaving information. Without cell towers, urgent emergency alerts can’t get to phones and it is more difficult for residents to warn one another of danger or contact authorities. It’s a tough sell to get private companies to spend the time and money to build towers in rural areas, according to reports and experts.

FCC Proposes Rules to Improve Routing of Wireless 911 Calls and Texts

The Federal Communications Commission proposed rules to more precisely route wireless 911 calls and texts to 911 call centers, which can result in faster response times during emergencies. Wireless 911 calls have historically been routed to 911 call centers based on the location of the cell tower that handles the call. But in some cases—for example, if a 911 call is made near a county or a city border—the nearest cell tower may be in a neighboring jurisdiction.

Digital Divide Diaries: The Hoopa Valley Versus The Digital Divide

This summer, the mountains moved in Hoopa Valley (CA). As a wildfire burned through trees and vegetation, a thunderstorm dropped two inches of rain in one day. Meanwhile, online, residents were clamoring to Facebook to learn what had happened. Others started to email Frank, who serves as a youth coordinator with Save California Salmon and Miss Na:tini-we’, a cultural and political ambassador for the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

Reps. Johnson, Schrier Introduce Life-Saving ALERT Parity Act to Expand Access to Emergency Services

Representatives Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Kim Schrier (D-WA) introduced the ALERT Parity Act. This legislation would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue rules for the provision of emergency connectivity service. It would enable providers of emergency connectivity services, including providers of satellite direct-to-cell service, to apply to the FCC to access spectrum to fill in commercial mobile service coverage gaps in unserved areas specifically to provide connectivity for emergency services.

Verizon tells 3G customers to upgrade before they lose service

Verizon is telling customers that if they’re still using a 3G CDMA or 4G (non-VoLTE) phone that does not support its newer network technologies, “your line will be suspended without billing and will lose the ability to call, text, or use data.” Verizon is the last of the Big 3 wireless carriers in the US to shut down a 3G network and repurpose the spectrum for newer technology. Verizon has been working with customers – both consumers and businesses – since 2016 to ensure customers have “every opportunity” to get a device that uses either 4G or 5G, including direct outreach to customers and

FCC Announces Agenda for December 2022 Open Meeting

The Federal Communications Commission announced the agenda for its December 2022 open commission meeting. The FCC will consider:

FCC Updates Rules To Improve 911 Reliability

The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to promote public safety by ensuring that 911 call centers receive timely and useful notifications of network disruptions that affect 911 service. These notifications will help 911 call centers maintain emergency services and inform the public when to use alternatives to call 911. The updated rules will standardize the type of information conveyed in the notifications and ensure that it is clear and actionable, regardless of where in the call processing network an outage occurs.

FCC to Further Strengthen Storm-Hardened Puerto Rico & USVI Networks

The Federal Communications Commission proposed a plan to extend certain Universal Service Fund support to eligible mobile and fixed carriers in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to ensure consumers have access to advanced telecommunications services in the face of hurricanes and other natural disasters.

FCC Proposes to Strengthen Security of Emergency Alert Systems

The Federal Communications Commission proposed rules to bolster the operational readiness and security of the nation’s public alert and warning systems, the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts. These systems warn the public about emergencies through alerts on their televisions, radios, and wireless phones. In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted, the FCC proposes to:

Global internet gaps prompt calls for a US plan

Pressure is growing for the US to develop a plan to quickly build internet lifelines for people living in conflict zones or under repressive regimes. The absence of a broadband strategy has led to a reliance on the ad hoc goodwill of private companies, such as Elon Musk's donation of Starlink satellite to provide internet service in Ukraine. Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr said that the US needs both the ability to quickly deploy internet networks and surge the production of censorship-circumvention online tools in authoritarian countries. Rep.