Rockefeller and Hutchison to FCC: Take Necessary Steps to Secure Communications Infrastructure During Emergencies

August 29, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C.—As the East Coast braced for the impending landfall of Hurricane Irene, Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV and Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison asked that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) work to make sure the nation’s communications infrastructure is secure during emergencies.  In the letter sent Friday to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Rockefeller and Hutchison noted that police and firefighters nationwide are still without a dedicated interoperable communications network putting lives at undue risk.  The letter was sent on the heels of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that shook most of the eastern seaboard and caused significant communications failures.

“As we are now in the midst of hurricane season, the FCC should work to make sure that our nation’s communications infrastructure is up to the task,” Rockefeller and Hutchison said in the letter.  “Americans should expect that they can reach their loved ones during an emergency.  But our commercial networks are asked to do much more.  Because first responders still do not have a nationwide wireless broadband network of their own, they must rely on these same commercial networks if they hope to access any mobile data services, such as text messaging and emails.”

Rockefeller and Hutchison have been pushing to enact public safety spectrum legislation that would create the nation’s first interoperable broadband communications network for first responders and prevent communications breakdown for emergency personnel during a crisis.  S.911 would do just that.  S.911 cleared the Commerce Committee overwhelmingly by a vote of 21-4 and would not cost taxpayers a dime.

The full text of the letter can be found below.