The introduction of the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters [SANDY] Act of 2016 in the Senate this week drew praise from various quarters, following the bill's passage in the House last week by a margin of 389 to 2.
The bill, motormanned by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, was introduced last fall and is meant to address the communications failures following Superstorm Sandy, which hammered Pallone's home state in October 2012.
The bill consists of the following:
• "Makes sure that during an emergency, consumer cell phones work on other carriers’ networks if their own network goes down, giving priority to calls to 911 services and emergency alerts;
• "Increases coordination between wireless carriers, utilities and public safety officials;
• "Begins a process to provide 911 services over WiFi hotspots during emergencies;
• "Makes sure all communication providers — radio, TV, and phone — can fix outages faster, even across state lines; and
• "Launches an expansive study of the future of network resiliency."
"When disaster strikes and other networks go down, local broadcasters play a lifeline role in keeping audiences out of harm's way," said the National Association of Broadcasters following the bill's introduction in the Senate. "We applaud Rep. Pallone for his leadership on this issue through the SANDY Act and urge lawmakers to ensure Americans have access to critical broadcast information during a crisis."
Paul Rotella, president of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association, said, "As the Hurricane season rapidly approaches, we hope Congress will act expeditiously on this matter of Public Safety and National Security, and that the president will sign it in to law without delay."