For years, the FCC has been concerned about network outages during emergencies. This can include hurricanes, floods, blizzards, and other weather events such as Superstorm Sandy. The focus of the Commission is to obtain information about whether communication systems have been knocked out and not operating.
There are two primary reporting systems. One system is called the Network Outage Reporting System (NORS). This has not applied to broadcasters and focuses on telephone and other communications systems. A second reporting system is called the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). This system is activated by the FCC during emergencies. It provides the FCC with updated information about the status of communications systems. Broadcasters have participated in this system on a voluntary basis.
FCC plans to require cable systems and phone systems to participate in DIRS:
“In this Second Report and Order, we adopt rules to: (i) require cable communications, wireline, wireless, and interconnected VoIP providers (subject providers) to report their infrastructure status information in DIRS daily when the Commission activates DIRS in geographic areas in which they provide service, even when their reportable infrastructure status has not changed compared to the prior day, unless they are unable to file."
As for broadcasters, the FCC has not yet required broadcasters to participate in DIRS or NORS. However, they opened a proceeding looking at requiring stations to file with DIRS and NORS. The FCC states:
“Since DIRS was created initially in 2007, the United States has experienced an increasing amount of flooding, hurricanes, winter storms, tornadoes, and wildfires necessitating the more regular activation of DIRS and demonstrably impacting the nation’s communications infrastructure. Global instability has also increased the potential for malicious threats to vital communications systems and services. As such, the Commission also recognizes that DIRS could be used in response to man-made disasters including cyber and kinetic attacks against communications network infrastructure.”
Accordingly, the FCC is looking to expand DIRS and NORS reporting to broadcasters:
“We propose requiring TV and radio broadcasters report in both NORS and DIRS based on the type and modality of certain broadcast infrastructures, and seek comment on this proposal. We seek comment on the classes of broadcasters that should be included as mandatory filers, whether a simplified reporting process would be appropriate, and what reporting elements should be included for such a purpose in NORS and/or DIRS.”
While we understand the FCC’s desire to obtain such information, we must make sure that it will not impair our ability to respond during emergencies. We need to keep the citizens of our communities informed. We hope the FCC does not enact a burdensome reporting requirement that has stations filling out forms and taking away resources from our primary mission – to inform the public during emergencies.
YOU can access the FCC’s proposal here.