The FCC's update on its ongoing inquiry into communications
failures following the Derecho Mid-Atlantic storms on June 29 focused on 911
service outages, but FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai did not let the opportunity pass
to include broadcasters in the conversation.
The upshot of the report was that there was good news and
bad news. The good was that in many areas communications services held up well,
the bad was where it didn't, especially systematic 911 failures in Northern
Virginia and West Virginia.
After the presentation, Pai singled out broadcasters for
praise. He thanked them for the critical role they played in keeping the public
informed. When cell service was out, he said, radio was a lifeline that he and
other citizens were grateful for.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski followed up with the point
that both mobile phones and radio were key ways to communicate when power goes
out because they operated on batteries. He made the point that one thing the
storm-related failures demonstrated was how reliant the communications
infrastructure was on the electric grid.
In a press conference following the meeting, Genachowski was
asked whether the FCC should have rules for mandatory backup power, which the
FCC once had. He said that would be part of ongoing discussions about how to
improve emergency communications.
Commissioner Robert McDowell said that the silver lining of
all those storm clouds was that they revealed fundamental weaknesses that could
now be strengthened, pointing out that in the Nation's Capital, unnatural
disasters like terrorist attacks were also a threat. He also said he wanted to
point out the good as well as the bad, including power companies like Verizon
working around the clock to deal with hundreds of downed poles and connections.
Rosenworcel pushed the FCC to continue its investigation of
what went wrong, wherever that leads. Pai commended the chairman for launching
the investigation and called on it to quickly finalize it.