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Final Outage Notification Order Got Numerous Changes From Draft

The FCC’s final order approving new outage reporting rules, approved 4-0 Thursday (see 2211170051), addresses at length concerns raised by CTIA and other industry commenters, based on a side-by-side comparison with the draft order. Because of a field hearing after the commissioners meeting Thursday, FCC staff didn’t have a press briefing on changes to the items while on the 10th floor. The order was released Friday.

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The FCC defers action on a proposal to require covered 911 service providers and originating service providers (OSPs) to include geographic information system (GIS) data relevant to the geographic area affected in an outage report. But the final version now directs the Public Safety Bureau “to gather for future consideration additional information on 911 special facilities’ capabilities to use graphical outage information, the utility of that information for 911 outage remediation, and the formats in which the graphic information would be feasible for service providers to produce.” The draft said only that GIS requirements may be revisited at a later date.

The final order denies arguments that the scope of the notification requirements for public safety answering points shouldn’t include general network outages. “CTIA argues that the Commission confirmed CTIA’s interpretation of the outage reporting rules when adopting notification rules for interconnected VoIP providers because those rules distinguish between outages that ‘affect all interconnected VoIP calls, not just calls to 9-1-1’ and those ‘that potentially affect a 9-1-1 special facility,’” says new language in the order: “The distinction that Order made was warranted because some general outages may not ‘potentially affect a 911 special facility.’ When general outages do ‘potentially affect a 911 special facility,’ however, service providers, including interconnected VoIP providers, must notify 911 special facilities.”

The final order also disagrees with wireless industry arguments on the level of diligence required to obtain a 911 center’s contact information and keep that information up to date. “We disagree with CTIA and others that argue that special diligence should only require three attempts to contact the 911 special facility using at least two different types of media (e.g., email, phone, text),” the order says: “We believe that this approach would defeat the purpose of this requirement, as instead of incentivizing providers to ascertain and update such contact information to prepare for anticipated natural disasters or other emergencies, it would allow 911 service providers and OSPs to satisfy their obligations during such emergencies by simply reaching out to what may well be an outdated point of contact.”

The order rejects wireless industry arguments on when notification requirements kick in. “We decline the request of CTIA and others to define ‘discovery’ as the time when a provider both confirms that the service disruption constitutes a reportable outage and confirms the identities of the potentially affected PSAPs,” the FCC says. “We believe that such a definition of discovery would disincentivize providers from learning as much about an outage as quickly as possible.” The FCC also disagreed with CTIA, Lumen and others that requested the commission apply this 30-minute notification deadline flexibly “by allowing providers to merely begin, and not complete, the notification 911 special facilities within 30 minutes.” The agency said “the record demonstrates, all 911 special facilities need outage notifications as soon as possible and an approach that would potentially allow service providers -- contrary to our established requirement for covered 911 service providers -- to delay some 911 special facilities’ outage notifications for hours after discovery would not serve the public safety purposes of the rule.”

In another change, citing a disagreement between public safety groups and industry on the likely volume of reports, the order directs the Public Safety Bureau to “gather for future consideration information on the volume of 911 outages that may go unreported under the Commission’s existing outage notification thresholds and seek additional comment on possible alternative outage reporting thresholds.” APCO argues “the problem with 911 special facility outage notification today is not too many notifications, but too few,” the order said.

CTIA supports the FCC’s goal of enhancing the situational awareness of Public Safety Answer Points in the event of a disruption to 911 services,” a spokesperson emailed Friday: “We look forward to working with the Commission in refining the notification process in ways that ultimately benefit PSAPs.”

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Geoffrey Starks had written statements on the order.