Schumer Calls for FCC to Require Backup Power for Cell Locations

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By Paul Barbagallo  

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging the Federal Communications Commission to require that all cellphone service providers have emergency power sources.

Schumer's call for FCC action comes two weeks after superstorm Sandy knocked out 25 percent of all cell sites in the Northeast United States, leaving many citizens in the area without access to any means of communications for days.

“In neighborhoods of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Lower Manhattan, and Long Island, there was a virtual communications blackout, with residents struggling to find out vital information such as where disaster aid resources were located, and what had happened to their friends, family and neighbors,” Schumer said in a statement Nov. 19. “When it comes to keeping our vital communications networks up-and-running, we can and must do better.”

The FCC has tried in the past to adopt rules that would require telecom carriers to have an emergency backup power source for their networks.

In November 2008, the Office of Management and Budget disapproved a rule that would have mandated that local exchange and wireless carriers have an emergency backup power source for all equipment, including those inside central offices, cell sites, remote switches, and digital loop carrier system remote terminals.

The rules would have forced carriers to maintain emergency backup power for a minimum of 24 hours for equipment inside central offices, and for eight hours for cell sites, remote switches, and remote terminals that are normally powered from local AC commercial power.

At the time, CTIA-The Wireless Association, which represents the nation's largest wireless carriers, had petitioned for a stay of the rules, while seven other companies and organizations had filed pleadings for reconsideration or clarification.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in a statement Nov. 19, said the agency is giving serious consideration to Schumer's proposal.

“This unprecedented storm has revealed new challenges involving our communications infrastructure during times of crisis,” the chairman said. “I urge all stakeholders to engage constructively in the period ahead.”

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