FCC Opens Proceeding to Require Infrastructure Filings During Emergencies

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy the FCC inquired about the status communications systems, especially the failure of some wireless systems.  The information was submitted through a voluntary reporting system called the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS).  This has always been a voluntary system.  Last week the FCC opened a proceeding to require stations to participate in reporting information to DIRS.

For the most part, the FCC is focusing on wireless communications systems, which often lack back-up power generation.  Nonetheless, the new proceeding is asking whether it should require broadcast stations to report their operational status during an emergency. The FCC noted:

“We seek comment on steps the Commission can take to address these issues and encourage better situational awareness through DIRS and NORS.  Starting with DIRS, are there steps the Commission can take to encourage broader voluntary participation during disasters, including from smaller providers?  Alternatively, should the Commission consider requiring the nation’s service providers, i.e., cable providers, Direct Broadcast Satellite providers, Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service, TV and radio broadcasters, Commercial Mobile Radio Service and other wireless service providers, wireline providers, and VoIP providers, to report their infrastructure status information in DIRS when the Commission activates DIRS in geographic areas in which they broadcast or otherwise provide service? We recognize that a proposed requirement to file in DIRS must be balanced against additional burdens on service providers, particularly as DIRS reports are filed in the midst of disasters and other emergencies.  If we were to explore requiring DIRS filing, we seek comment on our legal authority to do so, the costs and benefits associated with mandatory reporting, and how the Commission should enforce any failure to file DIRS information.”  (emphasis supplied)

While this could supply important information to the FCC, it could become an unreasonable burden at a time when stations struggle to remain on the air. This will certainly impact stations in states that are prone to hurricanes.  While supportive, we do not want to see the FCC impose reporting burdens on stations, especially during the actual emergency. We are keeping a close eye on this proceeding.

To see a copy of the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking click HERE.

 

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