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.

FCC Begins Proceeding on Supporting Survivors of Domestic Violence

The Federal Communications Commission opened an inquiry to evaluate how FCC programs might help survivors of domestic violence and other harmful abuse get access to connectivity services. The Notice of Inquiry seeks comment on whether the Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs can be modified to support the connectivity needs of survivors.

FCC Acts to Improve Network Resiliency During Disasters

The Federal Communications Commission adopted a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking taking measures to improve the reliability and resiliency of mobile wireless networks that are a significant lifeline for those in need during disasters and other emergencies.

FirstNet Expands Across Navajo Nation

Navajo Nation first responders are getting a major boost in their wireless communications thanks to the FirstNet network expansion currently underway by AT&T. In addition to constructing new, purpose-built FirstNet sites where first responders said they needed improved coverage, AT&T is collaborating with Commnet Broadband, NTUA, NTUA Wireless, and the Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to help build out additional Band 14 spectrum and AT&T commercial LTE spectrum bands across more than 100 sites.

First Responders Need Data. Can LTE Networks Come to the Rescue?

Push-to-Talk (PTT) radios are first responders’ primary means of communication in an emergency. These two-way radios rely on Land Mobile Radio (LMR) networks to carry signals. PTT radios and LMR networks are reliable and secure, and fire, police, and other emergency response teams know these systems well. But voice radios are not enough anymore. Two-way radios can’t send pictures, blueprints, and maps and they can’t talk with units from other jurisdictions. Without these capabilities, communications could break down, jeopardizing rescue and response efforts.

Next-generation 911 gets $10 billion in spectrum bill

Congress advanced an amendment that would provide billions in funding for next-generation 911, moving one step closer to possibly fulfilling a longstanding wish of the public safety community. The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s communications and technology panel voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the Spectrum Innovation Act (H.R. 7624) that would use funding from wireless spectrum auctions to raise $10 billion for next-generation 911, a suite of IP-based technologies that enables 911 call centers to use location data, photos and video.

Summit County, Ohio, is creating a broadband network

Several new items of legislation to create Summit Connects, a high-speed broadband public safety network, were introduced at the June 13 Summit County (OH) Council meeting. According to county officials, the network will initially consist of a 125-mile fiber optic cable ring connecting Summit County and its 31 city, village and township governments to gigabit-speed internet service and a data center to be operated by the City of Fairlawn.

Chairwoman Rosenworcel Proposes Improvements To Wireless Communications During Disasters

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel shared with her colleagues new draft rules to improve the reliability and resiliency of wireless networks during emergencies. If adopted by a vote of the full FCC, the rules would help reduce wireless phone outages for the public and support faster service restoration after hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters. In September 2021, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to improve communications during disasters.

FCC To Examine Technology That Can Improve Wireless 911 Call Routing And Support Faster Emergency Response

The Federal Communications Commission launched an examination into the state of technology that can more precisely route wireless 911 calls to the proper 911 call center, which could result in faster response times during emergencies. Wireless 911 calls are typically 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.

FCC Modernizes and Improves Its Priority Services Rules

The Federal Communications Commission modernized and streamlined its rules for programs that help first responders and other emergency personnel communicate during disasters. The updated rules will help ensure that these programs meet the needs of emergency personnel now and in the future, as technology advances. In a Report and Order adopted May 19, the FCCupdated its priority services rules to reflect today’s marketplace and governance framework and to authorize explicitly the prioritization of next-generation technology. Specifically, the FCC:

FCC Carr Proposes New Wireless Resiliency Rules

Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr called for the FCC to adopt new rules that will promote consumer access to robust, resilient wireless networks during disasters. Specifically, Carr proposed adopting new FCC rules to:

  • Require wireless providers to participate in the wireless resiliency framework;
  • Expand the types of events that would trigger activation of the framework;
  • Mandate roaming during disaster arrangements; and
  • Ensure an effective roaming during a disaster regime.