Senators Seek GAO Study of Network Resiliency

In advance of the Senate Communications Subcommittee hearing June 5 on the IP transition, subcommittee chairman Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chair of the Subcommittee on Science and Space, and parent Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) have asked the Government Accountability Office to study how the communications sector plans to "guarantee" resiliency and reliability as they transition to new technologies.

Specifically, those communications networks are transitioning from traditional switched-circuit networks to IP (Internet protocol) delivery, and from wired to wireless communications.

"During times of emergencies, effective communications before, during, and after the incident can drastically alter the outcome of that incident," they wrote. "Yet, as proven during Superstorm Sandy, the Boston Marathon bombings, and other emergencies, communication networks can be brought down by congestion as friends and families flood lines in search of loved ones. Furthermore, the loss of communications facilities could have cascading impacts on other key critical infrastructure sectors due to interdependencies between the sectors," the Senators wrote. "Therefore it is important that the nation’s communications networks and systems are resilient and rapidly restored after a natural or manmade disaster. We are interested in knowing how the communications sector will ensure the reliability of the nation’s communications networks in an IP-environment."

The senators want the following questions answered:

"To what extent has the communications sector transitioned from traditional copper-based networks to IP networks?

"As part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, what action has the federal government taken to ensure the reliability and robustness of communication networks that have transitioned to IP?

"What key challenges do IP network operators face during times of crises and how do the challenges affect consumers?

"To what extent do priority access programs for emergency preparedness communications exist for IP networks?"

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.