FCC Focuses Bully Pulpit on 911 Practices

The Genachowski FCC is enamored with the bully pulpit as an enforcement tool. In the year since the new Chairman has taken office, we’ve seen examples with FCC letters to Apple regarding its iPhone approval practices; letters to Google concerning the classification of Google Voice; and letters to wireless carriers concerning their early termination fees. This time, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau reminds” telecommunications carriers of the need to provide diversity and redundancy in their 911 and E-911 services. Although the Public Notice is not enforceable and does not cite to enforceable rules, it clearly is intended to influence carrier behavior. Those who fail to heed this reminder” could find themselves in an investigation questioning whether their practices are just and reasonable.”

The Public Notice stemmed from a review by the Bureau of network outage reports that carriers are required to file. The Bureau stated that it has observed a significant number” of 911/E911 outages caused by a lack of diversity. Moreover, it notes that these outages could have been avoided at little expense to the service provider” (emphasis mine). The clear implication is that FCC tolerance for these types of outages will diminish over time.

Follow the link for a discussion of the diversity mistakes highlighted by the Bureau.

The Public Notice identifies the following examples of lack of diversity causing outages:

  • Placement of all E911 trunks or ALI links on the same Digital Cross-connect System;
  • Placement of all E911 trunks or ALI links on the same DS1 transport facility (which then fails due to a line cut, failure of a control processor or failure of a power supply);
  • Failure of E911 due to failure of a single fuse;
  • Failure of E911 due to problems with a single Remote Terminal serving a PSAP;
  • Failure of E911 due to simultaneous failure of redundant timing cards.

The Bureau cautions carriers to avoid placing an entire group of 911/E911 trunks or ALI links on one piece of transmission equipment.” It also cites the Network Reliabilty and Interoperability Council (NRIC) best practices as a model in several instances in the Public Notice. These are not binding rules, but the Bureau is looking toward them for guidance.

Final note: The Public Notice mistakenly retained a draft date of May 28, 2009 in the footer. Clearly, the Bureau has been concerned with 911 outages for some time.