Citing failures of wireless network services and equipment in the wake of Hurricane Irene and the East Coast earthquake of August 23, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell called for an investigation of the Wireless Priority Service (WPS) program, which is designed to prioritize calls placed by public officials during weather emergencies, disasters, and other times of potential network overload. The WPS was established as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Communications System and permits public officials to place prioritized calls through the commercial network grid by inputting a special number on their handsets. Pointing to widespread reports of temporary service outages and similar wireless network problems that were caused by a surge in calling activity in the hours after the recent Virginia earthquake, McDowell acknowledged during a press interview that questions have arisen about the reliability of the WPS system. Stressing, “public safety and homeland security are always a priority” for the FCC, McDowell said “the recent one-two punch of an earthquake and a hurricane hitting the East Coast, the most densely populated area in the country, has heightened awareness that we need to reexamine what we’re doing in this area.” Meanwhile, in reply comments that respond to an FCC notice of inquiry on issues of network reliability, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) reminded the FCC last Thursday that, “while carriers indicate their networks perform at 99 percent reliability, it is in the remaining fraction of downtime—which typically will occur during or immediately following natural or man-made events— when utilities are most reliant on communications in order to restore critical services.” In a separate filing, the American Petroleum Institute advised the FCC that, given the track record of commercial network reliability in the wake of such disasters, “private internal systems will be required for the foreseeable future for core mission critical communications that are used to ensure the safety of life and property.”