Hurricane Sandy had a devastating effect on wireless infrastructure in areas hardest hit by the storm. As a result, the FCC today announced plans to conduct field hearings throughout the US that will assess network resiliency and investigate how carriers can keep communications flowing during natural disasters and other situations where their services become most vital. But the meetings will also address emergency preparedness to a wider degree. Aside from the telecom focus, these hearings aim to highlight our dependency on fuel during emergencies (many NYC-based companies relied on it to stay operational during Sandy), resource pooling in times of crisis, and 911 accessibility, among other timely concerns.

The FCC looks to avoid communication breakdown for future emergencies

The first hearing will take place in New York in early 2013, with the FCC planning to make stops at various locales across the US that have faced major disasters in recent years. According to the commission, consumers, businesses, public safety officials, and experts in engineering and academia will take part. What the FCC takes away from the field hearings will influence its future recommendations to help strengthen the wireless industry against potential emergencies. Summing up the situation, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, "this unprecedented storm has revealed new challenges that will require a national dialogue around ideas and actions to ensure the resilience of communications networks."

Public Knowledge is pleased with the FCC's latest initiative, saying in a statement that Hurricane Sandy "showed the importance of maintaining a federal role in disaster preparedness and response." The public interest group describes the hearings as "an important first step in making sure we take a balanced and pragmatic approach to making sure our new networks won't crash on us when we need them most."