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New Bill Requires Roaming Agreements in Emergencies

A pair of Democrats have introduced a bill that would require advanced communications networks to coordinate their responses and share their facilities in times of disaster. 

The Reinforcing and Evaluating Service Integrity, Local Infrastructure, and Emergency Notification for Today’s [RESILIENT] Networks Act (H.R. 5926), was introduced by house Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and committee member Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.). 

Network resiliency after disasters has been a signature issue for Pallone, particularly following Superstorm Sandy. Pallone was the driving force behind the SANDy Act, which was also about securing networks in emergencies. 

The RESILIENT Networks Act builds on the SANDy Act, according to Pallone's office.  

Among other things, it directs the FCC to "adopt rules requiring pre-planned coordination agreements, such as roaming and peering agreements and mutual aid arrangements, among communications service providers to take effect during times of emergency. " 

It would also require the FCC to improve coordination and outage info sharing to help with emergency response, would direct the FCC to issue beste practices for coordination between utilities and communications service providers about planned power shutoffs, require communications providers to take "reasonable and technically feasible measures to integrate backup power sources, such as generators and batteries, into their networks," study and report to Congress on the unique challenges of 5G resilience.  

It also requires the Comptroller General to audit the FCC's response to the 2017 hurricane season in Puerto Rico and report to Congress, after which the FCC must being a proceeding to address the findings and recommendations of that report. 

Related: Pallone Wants GAO Investigation of FCC Response in Puerto Rico 

Following a May report from Free Press slamming the FCC response, a report Pallone cited at the time in seeking a GAO investigation of the response, an FCC spokesperson said: "FCC staff and senior leadership have spent significant time working with local leaders to do everything we can to help in the recovery, resiliency, and eventually improvement of communications services for these hard-hit Americans.”  

In February 2018, Pai and the FCC got a bipartisan pat on the back for the commission's hurricane response in Puerto Rico a letter from Florida Sens. Marco Rubio (R) and Bill Nelson (D). which included an exhortation to keep up the good work.  

For a section-by-section breakout of the RESILIENT bill, go here.