FCC, CISA Seek 'Essential' Status for More Communications Workers

The heads of the FCC and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are asking governors to make sure that essential communications workers have the necessary resources to keep up connectivity during the pandemic.

That came in a letter to governors across the country from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and CISA director Christopher Krebs.

That includes prioritizing available personal protective equipment to communications workers when it is available and "Calls on states to facilitate the maintenance, repair, and provisioning of communications infrastructure and services by providing online access to relevant government functions, such as the permitting process, where not already available electronically."

They also want the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to update their critical infrastructure worker guidance to include the following:

• "Businesses and personnel that provide communications support to medical and healthcare facilities, assisted care and living facilities, and people with disabilities;

• "Radio and television broadcasters, cable operators, and internet protocol television (IPTV) providers;

• "Telecommunications relay services providers and closed captioning providers;

• "Public safety communications infrastructure (e.g., land mobile radio, broadband, WiFi, high frequency radio, microwave, wireline, satellite voice, video, radio over internet protocol, paging, data communications systems), including infrastructure that is owned, operated or maintained by commercial service providers in support of public safety and infrastructure in support of Emergency Communications Centers;

• "Internet access service providers, telephone carriers, interconnected VoIP providers, mobile wireless providers, undersea cable operators, content delivery network operators, service integrators, and equipment vendors;

• "Satellite operators; and

• "Companies and individuals involved in the construction of new communications facilities and deployment of new and existing technology to address unprecedented levels of customer usage and close the digital divide for Americans who are sheltering at home."

“Communications networks are a lifeline during this challenging time, enabling the public to call 911 and participate in telehealth, distance learning, and telework,” said Pai. “To continue meeting these needs during the pandemic, workers in the communications industry must have the necessary access and resources. We urge state leaders, who are playing a critical role in protecting their communities, to consider the recommendations we are making today to ensure that communications networks and services remain available to the public and first responders.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.