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FCC Holds Sandy Hearing
Redundancy, Power, and Communications Issues Examined
by Karl Bode 09:23AM Wednesday Feb 06 2013
The FCC met with representatives from ISPs and carriers, city governments and power utilities to see what, if anything, could have prevented some of the outages seen during superstorm Sandy last fall. As I noted at the time, the response from fixed-line broadband providers was fairly stellar, with most ISPs providing quick refunds. It reached a point where things almost got a little absurd with ISPs trying to one up one another when it came to being sweet to storm victims.

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Wireless providers fared worse given their usual emergency-grade clogs, though the lion's share of telecommunications-related outages were courtesy of power companies slow to restore damaged poles and facilities. Many cell towers and residential connections remained offline for weeks due to power problems.

The FCC's Sandy-related field hearing primarily consisted of various Commissioners asking a variety of questions focused on redundancy issues, backup power issues, and the general lack of communication among providers and utilities.

"How do we ensure that backup power is where it needs to be and that providers have access to fuel for generators?" asked Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. "How can new technologies be harnessed to promote the resiliency and restoration of communications networks?" asked FCC boss Julius Genachowski.

It's unclear how much we'll learn from Sandy or how much the FCC can do. Hurricane Katrina resulted in the FCC mandating that cell towers had battery backups capable of providing at least eight hours of power. The result? As Dan Jones at Light Reading notes, carriers sued, stating that the requirements were too cost prohibitive. With carriers working tirelessly to erode FCC authority on all fronts, such a hearing may not result in much substantive action before the next inevitable superstorm.

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nonamesleft

join:2011-11-07
Manitowoc, WI
Reviews:
·Comcast
·Callcentric

You poor telcommunications corporations

Hurricane Katrina resulted in the FCC mandating that cell towers had battery backups capable of providing at least eight hours of power. The result? As Dan Jones at Light Reading notes, carriers sued, stating that the requirements were too cost prohibitive.

Are they serious? Back up power is too cost prohibitive? What are they pissing the money away on then? I could run a phone company better then all of them, and earn more customers, and keep them too, unlike these uncompetitive crooks.

Bill Neilson
Premium
join:2009-07-08
Arlington, VA

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

Yes, suitable backups are not something that they want to spend money on.

Since they write the rules, they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want with few if any exceptions.

Then they can scream about how anyone getting in their way is a "Anti-American" or a "Socialist".....then they will accept the billions in tax subsidies or tax breaks given to them by the government
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
japan
kudos:2

1 recommendation

said by nonamesleft:

Are they serious? Back up power is too cost prohibitive?

There's nothing inexpensive about quality UPS and backup power: both upfront and sustainment costs.
said by nonamesleft:

I could run a phone company better then all of them, and earn more customers, and keep them too, unlike these uncompetitive crooks.

I love comments like this. How many companies do you, or have you, run and what are those companies worth? Just curious about your resume.

nonamesleft

join:2011-11-07
Manitowoc, WI
Reviews:
·Comcast
·Callcentric

1 edit

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

said by openbox9:

said by nonamesleft:

Are they serious? Back up power is too cost prohibitive?

There's nothing inexpensive about quality UPS and backup power: both upfront and sustainment costs.
said by nonamesleft:

I could run a phone company better then all of them, and earn more customers, and keep them too, unlike these uncompetitive crooks.

I love comments like this. How many companies do you, or have you, run and what are those companies worth? Just curious about your resume.

So you would rather these crooked, corrupt telecommunications corps just keep on doing or not doing like usual? Funny from someone that has japan for a location.

To get to the point, I would love to buy out the branch that att serves for my area, and the other small surrounding areas.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
japan
kudos:2

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

I'm a US citizen, living in Japan, currently back in the states, not that it's relevant.

My point still stands. Quality UPS and backup power solutions are not cheap. Multiply that by millions of cell sites and before you know it you're talking real money.
silbaco
Premium
join:2009-08-03
USA

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

Millions of sites? What company in the US has even a quarter of one?
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
japan
kudos:2

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

How many towers exist serving up wireless communications infrastructure in the US? Even if it's hundreds of thousands, that's still a lot of money.
CXM_Splicer
Looking at the bigger picture
Premium
join:2011-08-11
NYC
kudos:1

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

The issue of battery backup gets complicated because there are different services involved in bringing people cell service. Pretty much all of the cell sites I come across here in NYC have battery backup. Not 8 hours worth but something. Beyond installing a backup power system is maintaining it; lead-acid batteries don't last very long and have to be replaced. I can tell you that Verizon does a piss-poor job of that. Many of the sites I see have swollen, leaking, corroded batteries that couldn't power an Energizer Bunny for more than 2-3 seconds. They used to maintain them but that was one of the groups that was felt to be unneeded.

Besides the Cell equipment itself, the local carrier equipment also needs battery backup or the cell site will have no access to the switch. Here, where Verizon is the LEC, it is up to the customer (At&t, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc.) to provide the backup power for our equipment. Some of our larger muxes have their own batter backup but the smaller ones don't. Often, they do not supply any backup power at all. There are also a lot with no backup fiber facilities but that is another issue.

The best option is diesel generators but those are pretty expensive and take up a lot of room. I have only seen a handful of sites that have them. Personally, I think the communications infrastructure is important enough that ALL carriers should be required to have generators on a certain percentage of sites and battery backup (of at least phone service) for 24 hours on all the others.

rit56

join:2000-12-01
New York, NY
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

I live downtown in an area that was blacked out for 4 days by Sandy. My mobile phone went out immediately. The other issue is if I was able to find a charge once I got back to my place the battery drained in a few hours due to my phone using all the battery power searching for a connection. It became pointless to charge the phone because you couldn't make a call, couldn't go on line, couldn't do anything because the phone couldn't find a tower.

Our society is dependent on electricity. Think of all the families cut off from essential services? Copper landlines never fail. Telecoms should be made to insure the same.
tanzam75

join:2012-07-19

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

said by rit56:

Our society is dependent on electricity. Think of all the families cut off from essential services? Copper landlines never fail.

Sure they do. Lower Manhattan lost a number of telephone exchanges when they flooded. Battery backup isn't of any use when the line shorts out.

NOCTech75
Premium
join:2009-06-29
Marietta, GA
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

said by tanzam75:

said by rit56:

Our society is dependent on electricity. Think of all the families cut off from essential services? Copper landlines never fail.

Sure they do. Lower Manhattan lost a number of telephone exchanges when they flooded. Battery backup isn't of any use when the line shorts out.

Physics is a bitch.
CXM_Splicer
Looking at the bigger picture
Premium
join:2011-08-11
NYC
kudos:1
How many of the fibers feeding the cell sites shorted out?

Bill Neilson
Premium
join:2009-07-08
Arlington, VA
said by openbox9:

I'm a US citizen, living in Japan, currently back in the states, not that it's relevant.

My point still stands. Quality UPS and backup power solutions are not cheap. Multiply that by millions of cell sites and before you know it you're talking real money.

Real money that should have been spent a long, long time ago.

Oh no, you mean....out of their 2012 $30B Operating Revenue....they maybe could have taken a few million out of their absurd CEO salaries and oh, I don't know a few million out of their idiotic TV ads.....and could have actually put that into the backup sites?

It is rather shocking and unfair of us to think that we would demand a major telephone provider to have even the most basic of backups.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
japan
kudos:2

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

said by Bill Neilson:

It is rather shocking and unfair of us to think that we would demand a major telephone provider to have even the most basic of backups.

Beyond your cynicism, no it's not unfair to expect uninterruptible communications capabilities. I was simply stating that such a request is a very expensive one to satisfy.

Bill Neilson
Premium
join:2009-07-08
Arlington, VA

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

said by openbox9:

said by Bill Neilson:

It is rather shocking and unfair of us to think that we would demand a major telephone provider to have even the most basic of backups.

Beyond your cynicism, no it's not unfair to expect uninterruptible communications capabilities. I was simply stating that such a request is a very expensive one to satisfy.

I understand.

Unfort, I was obviously one of those who dealt with the basic Katrina backups that failed.

nonamesleft

join:2011-11-07
Manitowoc, WI
Reviews:
·Comcast
·Callcentric
said by openbox9:

I'm a US citizen, living in Japan, currently back in the states, not that it's relevant.

My point still stands. Quality UPS and backup power solutions are not cheap. Multiply that by millions of cell sites and before you know it you're talking real money.

They should have invested in that kind of stuff long ago! But hey! Lets dump the back up power and UPS then. Emergency calls fail, possibility of lawsuits, all because you want to save a buck! You'll lose those bucks when the lawsuits roll in. Now what? Guess it wasn't so smart to cut corners was it!? Note: some content here is purely hypothetical.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
japan
kudos:2

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

Shoulda, coulda, woulda. It's a cell phone. There is no guarantee of service. A battery isn't going to guarantee service either. I say bring on these additional costs and then lets have an argument over why the carriers are raping consumers even more with higher and higher rates.

nonamesleft

join:2011-11-07
Manitowoc, WI
Reviews:
·Comcast
·Callcentric

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

said by openbox9:

Shoulda, coulda, woulda. It's a cell phone. There is no guarantee of service. A battery isn't going to guarantee service either. I say bring on these additional costs and then lets have an argument over why the carriers are raping consumers even more with higher and higher rates.

You would rather have more down time and put others at risk, you must be a wallstreeter, or a banker, or some elitist, to not give a rip about others, you only care about your bottom line.
My GF and I run two cell phones, and the home phone device from the same cell company. 2 out of 3 are on contract, 1 is off contract, still have that one with the same cell company.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
japan
kudos:2

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

said by nonamesleft:

You would rather have more down time and put others at risk

And you reached that conclusion how? I'm neither a banker or an elitist (whatever that means), but rather a realist. You want improved service? Pay improved prices. It really is that simple.

nonamesleft

join:2011-11-07
Manitowoc, WI
Reviews:
·Comcast
·Callcentric

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

said by openbox9:

said by nonamesleft:

You would rather have more down time and put others at risk

And you reached that conclusion how? I'm neither a banker or an elitist (whatever that means), but rather a realist. You want improved service? Pay improved prices. It really is that simple.

Hardy har har....What you don't get is, that when you are a big telecommunications corporation, you must follow regulations! You don't get to pick and choose which ones you don't want to follow. If they don't want to provide service, then they can get out of the business! Or else, they can give up the USF slush fund that they double dip from, isn't that suppose to be used for lifeline and other stuff like this?
By your logic, maybe "we the customers" can pick and choose what line items we want to pay on the bill, if the corporations get to do as they damn well please, like you think they should be able to.

Bill Neilson
Premium
join:2009-07-08
Arlington, VA
said by openbox9:

Shoulda, coulda, woulda. It's a cell phone. There is no guarantee of service.

Well yes, there is somewhat of a guarantee of service as getting no service would in fact legally mean that you don't have to pay your bill for that month.

Now, that doesn't mean that missing 1 day of service = 1 day off the bill...as we agree that the contract gives phone companies the ability to get off that
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
japan
kudos:2

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

said by Bill Neilson:

Well yes, there is somewhat of a guarantee of service as getting no service would in fact legally mean that you don't have to pay your bill for that month.

That's not a guarantee of service, rather it's a contractual obligation. I seriously doubt your cell phone contract identifies a guarantee of service.

Bill Neilson
Premium
join:2009-07-08
Arlington, VA

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

said by openbox9:

said by Bill Neilson:

Well yes, there is somewhat of a guarantee of service as getting no service would in fact legally mean that you don't have to pay your bill for that month.

That's not a guarantee of service, rather it's a contractual obligation. I seriously doubt your cell phone contract identifies a guarantee of service.

Yes, the contract does mean that no service for a month = no payment needed.

Again, if we are just talking about 1-2-3 days or a short period, I agree with you. Any longer and I think a customer has a very legitimate chance of arguing that the performance they received was not worthy of the contract signed.

NOCTech75
Premium
join:2009-06-29
Marietta, GA
Reviews:
·Comcast
said by nonamesleft:

I could run a phone company better then all of them, and earn more customers, and keep them too, unlike these uncompetitive crooks.

If you feel froggy.. then leap.

chip89

join:2012-07-05
Independence, OH
I know here sprint has a least 24 hours of back up power (I have a friend who works on thir cell towers)

EvelKub
Kitty is crazy
Premium
join:2002-03-17
Mesa, AZ
I disagree with making power backup mandatory, however I feel disclosure should be made when carriers don't have power backups in place.

For example, from what I've witnessed, it seems that Sprint cuts corners on power backups. As a 'bargain' provider, naturally less money is invested in the network.

At the same time, one of the most expensive providers (Verizon) seems to have very few problems during power disruptions. People complain that Verizon charges so much for service, but they've also invested much more capital into their network.

Of course, regardless of how much money is spent on the tower by the cell carrier, the interconnecting network must also spend more money to install backup batteries and natural gas backup generators.

By making something mandatory, you make carriers that get by on selling 'bargain' wireless services reduce their margins further. The big reason people sign up with 'bargain' carriers is the cheaper price.

It could be compared to WalMart. They sell "value" and not "quality" and they don't dispute that. Value is somewhere between having no product, or having a quality product, with the benefit of a lower purchase price. If you make it illegal to sell Value product, you will have a chunk of the population who can no longer afford the product at all.

EvelKub
Kitty is crazy
Premium
join:2002-03-17
Mesa, AZ

Re: You poor telcommunications corporations

Note my experiences mentioned in this comment are based on observations in San Diego (county wide power outage) and rural Ohio (last year when half the state was without power for a week after a huge storm.)

JCohen
Premium
join:2010-10-19
Nepean, ON
kudos:6

Waste of Time

What a waste of time and money, it was a hurricane, cable vaults were flooded, power poles were taken out, wires broke; yea a lot could've been done to prevent the outages.
moonpuppy

join:2000-08-21
Glen Burnie, MD

Re: Waste of Time

said by JCohen:

What a waste of time and money, it was a hurricane, cable vaults were flooded, power poles were taken out, wires broke; yea a lot could've been done to prevent the outages.

BINGO!

Seriously, what good does a cell site do when the central office is also out because it is flooded?

mech1164
I'll Be Back

join:2001-11-19
Lodi, NJ

Things to remember

People don't want to do things unless they have to. Either by a need to or being forced to. Our current power and communication grid is a patchwork of systems. They work well to together but are not as well designed as they should be. It's the "Lets get it running ASAP with at little cost as possible" model. What does that cause? Issues like we had in Sandy. Tunnels flooded and shorted out with months of rewire just get some service. Miles and miles of overhead wire that was blown down.

Yes having overhead wiring has the advantage of being easily being replaced when needed. Though wouldn't it be better to design it so that they are protected from these possibilities in the first place? Thing is that costs money and people won't spend that money unless they see an advantage or are forced to do so. And we are right back where we started.

cableties
Premium
join:2005-01-27

Quickly now...

What is the least we can get away with for the most return?

Answer: telco lobbying!!!
--
Splat
majortom1029

join:2006-10-19
Lindenhurst, NY
kudos:1

Cel ltower

I wish they would fix the problems from the hurricane. I live on long island in Medford and my local att cell tower is still out from the hurricane.
TBBroadband

join:2012-10-26
Fremont, OH

Power???

Since when is the FCC governing power companies??? LMAO! They seriously need to be put in check. Both ISPs and Power companies need to tell them to take a hike.