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FCC empanels Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group

Move comes after FCC Chairman criticizes Hurricane Michael recovery

After publicly criticizing the network recovery efforts after Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has empaneled a new working group focused on establishing best practices around hardening network infrastructure ahead of a disaster and then recovering from the impacts.

The Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group is nested under the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee. The working group’s charge is three-fold: network resiliency, network recovery and coming up with measures related to “coordination among wireless providers, backhaul providers and power companies during and after a disaster.”

Pai said in a statement the new working group will assist in a larger review of the FCC’s Wireless Resiliency Framework. “Broadband communications have become essential to the delivery of life-saving information in a disaster. It’s critical to public safety that our broadband networks are as resilient as possible to prevent outages in a disaster and also can be restored as quickly as possible when an outage occurs.”

The 28-member panel is chaired by Red Grasso, North Carolina’s FirstNet point of contact, and vice-chaired by Wireless Infrastructure Association President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein, himself a former FCC commissioner.

Adelstein said in a statement, “The wireless infrastructure industry has worked long and hard to improve the resiliency of our networks. I look forward to sharing many of these successes with the working group, as well as learning from others on how to build on the work that has been done to ensure wireless networks remain reliable when needed most.”

The working group has representation from city-level and federal officials, and a number of telecom industry reps, including GeoLinks CEO Skyler Ditchfield, CTIA’s Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs Patrick Donovan, Crown Castle VP of Legal Monica Gambino, Kurt Jacobs of JMA Wireless and Verizon Director of Business Continuity and Emergency Management Richard Kildow.

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