FCC Chair Recommending Rules for More Resilient 911

Derecho Report Finds Failures during Storm Mostly Avoidable

According to a high-level FCC official on background, the FCC Thursday will release its report on communications failures in last summer's Derecho storm and -- in concert with that report -- commission hairman Julius Genachowski will announce plans to produce new rules to strengthen the resiliency of nationwide 911 communications.

According to the source, the report points out that the storm resulted in 22 deaths and left millions without power, as well as some 2 million people unable to reach 911 due to disruption in communications.

The report says those communications failures came in large part due to avoidable planning and system failures, including the lack of working backup power. The report concluded that the 911 problems could have been avoided if companies had simply followed industry best practices and guidance.

The report calls those failures unacceptable and recommends the FCC take steps to insure that service providers 1) conduct audits of 911 circuits; 2) have adequate backup power and regularly maintain and test their systems; 3) have "adequate" network monitoring; and 4) have a more specific responsibility to notify call centers about communications breakdowns. The FCC's investigation found that 77 call serving over 3.6 million people lost some connectivity.

The report also says next generation IP-based 911 should improve reliability and performance.

FCC officials would not comment on the report's section on broadcasting, but sources say it generally gives the medium props for its lack of communications failures.