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How Well Did the FCC Respond to the 2017 Hurricane Season?

Understanding the robustness of existing communications infrastructure and to assess what can be improved

How would you rate the Federal Communications Commission response efforts to the 2017 hurricane season?

The FCC wants to know, and has opened a docket to allow broadcasters or members of the public to comment. Specifically, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is seeking comments on the resilience of communications infrastructure in those areas affected by a hurricane, is hoping to hear about the effectiveness of emergency communications, and is interested in public opinion on the government’s response to the four hurricanes that made landfall either the U.S. or its territories in 2017. Those storms include Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate.

The purpose of inquiry, the FCC said, is to better understand the robustness of existing communications infrastructure and to assess what can be improved in the future.

In its public notice, the commission noted the steps it has taken throughout this year’s hurricane season, including providing regular updates on the accessibility to communications infrastructure at a web page focused on hurricane-damaged areas.

As of press time, for example, the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) revealed that 21 AM radio stations are still confirmed out of service by the Puerto Rican Broadcast Association, 70 TV stations have been issued Special Temporary Authority to be offline and 17% of cell sites are still out of service, among other statistics.

The commission also noted that during hurricane season the agency set up a 24/7 operations center, provided infrastructure impact reports to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government agencies, granted more than 200 requests for special temporary authority, and issued more than 30 public notices and orders to allow for flexible use of spectrum or other nonstandard actions to support incident response.

The public now has the opportunity to comment on those efforts.

The Public Safety bureau is asking for comments on a specific series of questions, which can be found here. Comments can be filed via the ECFS filing system, which can be found here. Commenters should use the docket number 17-344 when filing their comments.