With the backing of ranking House Energy & Commerce Committee member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), wireless association CTIA joined U.S. Cellular and national wireless carriers AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint in unveiling a “Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework” Wednesday through which participating mobile operators would share information and promote network resiliency before, during and after natural disasters and other emergencies.
Wednesday’s agreement comes as the committee prepares to vote next week on the Pallone-sponsored SANDY Act (H.R. 3998). Drafted in response to network failures and other communications problems that affected wireless carriers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the SANDY Act would require the FCC to launch proceedings on rules that would enable subscribers to roam on competitor networks at “reasonable” rates during times of emergency and when network outages last longer than 24 hours. The FCC would also be required to initiate rulemaking proceedings “on the provision of roaming agreements between mobile services at no charge for all communications during times of emergency to or from 911 services.”
Capping five months of negotiations among Pallone, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and CTIA, the voluntary pact provides for (1) reasonable roaming arrangements during disasters, (2) mutual assistance among participating carriers during emergencies, (3) enhanced preparedness and restoration efforts involving local governments, and (4) improved communications to the public on service status and restoration. Characterizing the pact as “a set of common-sense solutions,” CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker told reporters that the cooperative framework will “limit the impact of future disasters, while avoiding unworkable and unnecessary mandates.” As Wheeler declared that “consumers need confidence that wireless networks will be there when they need them most,” Pallone proclaimed: “this agreement will save lives.”