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FCC Proposes To Share Communications Outage Information With Other Federal Agencies

…States Also

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By Cyber Era Staff

The Federal Communications Commission  (FCC) has proposed a framework for sharing detailed communications outage information with state and federal agencies to improve their situational awareness, enhance their ability to respond more quickly to outages affecting their communities, and help save lives, while also preserving the confidentiality of this data. 

The FCC supports the nation’s emergency response and preparedness efforts by collecting and providing accurate and timely information on the status of communications services and infrastructure through its Network Outage Reporting System (NORS) andDisaster Information Reporting System (DIRS).  During disasters, the Commission makes this information available to the US Department of Homeland Security, which uses it to assess the needs of affected areas and to coordinate emergency response efforts with state and local first responders.

FCC communications seen by Cyber Era, says the Commission’s experience with recent major outages—from the 2017 hurricanes, tornados, and flooding to power shutdowns in California and earthquakes in Puerto Rico—underscored the value of reliable and timely outage information to the rapid restoration of disrupted communications and the crucial role that state and other government agencies play in that restoration. 

In a Second Further of Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted February 28, the Commission proposed to provide direct, read-only access to NORS and DIRS filings to qualified agencies of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Tribal nations, territories, and federal government that reasonably required the information to prepare for or respond to an event that threatened public safety. 

The Commission’s proposal would allow participating agencies to share NORS and DIRS information with first responders and other government officials who play a vital public safety role in their jurisdictions during crises.  Participating agencies would also be allowed to publicly disclose information that is appropriately aggregated and anonymized.

To protect sensitive communications status data,participating agencies would be required to treat NORS and DIRS filings as confidential.  In addition, the Commission proposed an application process that would grant agencies access to this information only after certifying to requirements for maintaining the confidentiality of the data and the security of the databases.

In the Action by the Commission February 28, 2020 by Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 20-20) was approved by Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly with  Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks dissenting.  Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, Rosenworcel, and Starks issued separate statements.

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