United States: FCC Exploring Whether Enhanced Emergency Communications Requirements Are Needed

Last Updated: April 8 2013
Article by Laura Phillips and Patrick McFadden

The Federal Communications Commission has launched a proceeding to examine possible new requirements on carriers' networks in the wake of widespread problems reported regarding the availability of E-911 communications in the event of a major disaster such as the June 2012 “derecho” storm, which severely disrupted 911 systems and communications in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. A January report issued by the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau set forth findings and recommendations based on the loss of service from that storm, which rendered several 911 systems in three states inoperable, leaving two million residents unable to reach 911 services. An additional 3.6 million people reportedly lost some degree of network connectivity during and after the storm.

One of the key elements of the Notice concerns how broadly any new requirements would apply if adopted. The Notice and the underlying Bureau report are focused on network resiliency and, as a result, any future rules will most likely be directed to network owners. In the first instance, the rules will most obviously apply to facilities-based Local Exchange Carriers. However, as Next Generation 911, with an IP-based architecture that allows transmission of texts, data, video and photos to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) is implemented, the types of networks delivering transmissions to PSAPs will expand. Accordingly, the FCC proposes defining the term “911 service provider,” to which any new rules will apply, to include all entities that provide 911 call routing, automatic location information, emergency services IP networks, and similar services directly to a PSAP. The FCC asks whether this class of entities may include wireless carriers, interconnected VoIP service providers, or other potential service provider paths for reaching PSAPs. Additionally, depending on how the FCC elects to allow cost recovery for costs associated with coming into compliance with any rules that are adopted, entities, including resellers, wireless carriers and VoIP service providers, that rely on traditional ILEC or IP-based networks as critical inputs for the services they provide may face higher costs associated with those inputs.

The Notice seeks comment on four Bureau recommendations of additional requirements to be placed on covered service providers and their networks and seeks input on whether enforcement of voluntary best practices via FCC rules would be the best means of implementation:

  • Routine 911 Circuit Auditing – regular auditing of the physical routes of 911 circuits and automatic location identification links to identify single points of failure that could disrupt 911 communications and services. Physical diversity, i.e., physical separation of circuit paths, can help prevent a single failure from causing multiple circuits to fail. The Bureau report recommends regular auditing in order to maintain physical diversity.
  • Adequate “Central Office” Backup Power – because backup power failures can disable 911 services, the Bureau recommends requiring service providers to maintain resilient backup power in central offices, supported by testing, maintenance and record retention. The FCC acknowledges that what may constitute a “central office” may vary by service provider, and seeks comment on how the level of backup power required may vary according to type of facility. It is unclear how broadly the FCC might seek to extend this requirement, but this certainly suggests that the FCC could extend backup power requirements beyond traditional ILEC central offices, to include certain wireless carrier or VoIP service provider facilities – such as wireless carrier towers or consolidated data centers used by VoIP providers. The Notice seeks comment on whether the FCC should impose specific minimum standards for backup power, e.g., backup power sufficient to last a specific number of hours. It also seeks comment on costs and burdens associated with different possible requirements including having generators in all central offices, battery testing, generator testing, and other proposals.
  • Physical Diversity of Monitor and Control Links – to ensure that service providers maintain awareness of outages and can speed recovery from any outages, the Bureau recommends that service providers maintain physically diverse monitor and control links. In particular, the Notice observes that, during the derecho, two LECs lost network monitoring capabilities through a single point of failure, depriving them of visibility into the operation of their networks and complicating recovery efforts.
  • Improved Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) Notification of Outages –The Notice suggests adoption of more specific requirements on carriers regarding acceptable methods of PSAP notification and a minimum level of detail service providers must provide when reporting 911 outages.

The Notice seeks comment on rules that could implement these recommendations, which could range from specific standards adopted by the FCC to certification of compliance with industry best practices.

The Notice identifies four unique approaches for implementing any requirements it adopts and suggests the agency may choose to use two or more approaches, or one approach alone, to enforce any new rules implementing the Bureau’s recommendations – i.e., individual approaches or combinations could be used to enforce different aspects of any new rules. They are:

  • Reporting – requiring service providers to periodically report on their implementation of best practices or compliance with specific standards adopted by the FCC. The FCC seeks comment on the scope, frequency and detail of any reporting requirements, as well as on the extent to which reporting obligations alone would be effective.
  • Certification – requiring service providers (possibly an officer of the company) to certify that their networks comply with industry best practices and any specific reliability requirements imposed by the FCC.
  • Reliability Requirements – under this approach, the FCC would specify minimum standards for 911 communications reliability.
  • Compliance Reviews and Inspections – institute periodic reviews or site inspections by the FCC of service provider facilities at multiple central offices.

The costs and complications of implementing backup power resources, for example, are not insignificant. To the extent that recommendations to the FCC are substantive and recognize the legitimate public safety imperatives of enhancing network resilience and uninterupted 911 service, they could influence the FCC's ultimate rules in this area.

Comments will be due 30 days after the Notice is published in the Federal Register, with Reply Comments due 15 days thereafter.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Laura Phillips
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.