In response to an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ruling handed down this week, the FCC yesterday abandoned its rule that required U.S. wireless operators to provide back-up power capacity at every cell site throughout the country. The back-up power rule was enacted in 2007 in accordance with the recommendations of an independent panel that was formed by the FCC, in the wake of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster, to assess the effects of hurricanes and other natural calamities on communications networks. After the panel found that power outages contributed heavily to the failure of wireless network operations during Katrina, the FCC adopted rules requiring wireless carriers to install batteries with at least eight hours of back-up power capacity at each of the nation’s roughly 220,000 cell sites. Arguing that the rules are unduly burdensome, wireless association CTIA appealed the FCC’s order to the D.C. Circuit Court, which postponed its decision in the case pending the completion of OMB review. In a move applauded by the wireless industry, the OMB rejected the backup power rule early this week on grounds that the FCC failed to seek public comment on the rule prior to its adoption. The OMB also faulted the FCC for its failure to demonstrate “the practical utility” of the back-up power rule and that “a reasonable effort has been made to reduce to the extent possible the burden placed on the respondents.” Although the FCC is not bound legally by the OMB ruling, the agency told the DC Circuit yesterday that it would not attempt to override the OMB’s decision and that it would proceed instead to issue a rulemaking notice “with the goal of adopting revised backup power rules that will ensure that reliable communications are available to public safety . . . while at the same time attempting to address concerns that were raised regarding the prior rules.” Noting that pending legal challenges before the court are now moot, the FCC moved for dismissal of the case.
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FCC abandons backup power rule for cell sites
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