The Federal Communications Commission is to have a series of talks around the US to figure out how to stop mobile network outages during natural disasters.
A quarter of cell towers on the East coast were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy late last month and the FCC field hearings will focus on the problems service providers, state and local officials, emergency personnel and consumers had before, during and after the storm.
"This unprecedented storm has revealed new challenges that will require a national dialogue around ideas and actions to ensure the resilience of communications networks," FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said.
"As our thoughts and sympathies remain with those who have suffered loss and damage as a result of Superstorm Sandy, I urge all stakeholders to engage constructively in the period ahead.”
The hearings will start early next year and will discuss ways to keep mobile phone towers up and running and keep Wi-Fi operating. If services do go out, the FCC wants to discuss how to get them back quickly and what failsafes could support them - eg, back-up power.
The decision to hold the hearings comes after New York senator Chuck Schumer (D) called on the commission last weekend to work with responders and industry on how to keep communications online.
"Mobile communication has become an essential part of our lives, and increasing its reliability must be a top priority," Schumer said of the hearings. "I'd like to thank Chairman Genachowski and the FCC for their good work during the storm, and for beginning to tackle this important issue so quickly after." ®