FCC Adopts New Rules Concerning Disruptions to Communications

FCC Adopts New Rules Concerning Disruptions to Communications

At the January 25, 2024 Open Commission Meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) adopted a Report and Order (Order) updating its disaster reporting requirements for providers.

During disasters, the FCC may activate its Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS), which collects information on a voluntary basis specific to the impacts of a particular incident, like a hurricane. The Commission has found, however, that the voluntary nature of DIRS results in information gaps that can impair efficient emergency response because providers choose not to file. Some communications providers are also not required to file in its Network Outage Reporting System (NORS), similarly creating information gaps about overall network health. The Order adopted here addresses these concerns.

This Order includes the following new rules:

  • When the Commission activates DIRS in impacted geographic areas in which they provide service, cable, wireline, wireless, and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers must report their infrastructure status information daily in DIRS even when their reportable infrastructure status has not changed compared to the prior day.
  • Providers’ NORS reporting obligations will be suspended when they are required to report in DIRS during a disaster. This means that providers would not need to report twice.
  • Providers who report in DIRS must provide a single, final DIRS report to the Commission, within 24 hours of the Commission’s deactivation of DIRS. This final report will provide the status of the provider’s infrastructure that has not yet been fully restored at the time of the DIRS deactivation.

The rules will take effect the later of 30 days after the Commission issues a Public Notice announcing that the Office of Management and Budget has completed review of any new information collection requirements or at the earliest, November 30, 2024.

Also, as a reminder, in early December 2023, the legacy DIRS system was decommissioned in favor of a new platform, accessible directly at https://dirs.fcc.gov.  Current DIRS users without an existing account in the FCC’s Commission Registration System (CORES) will need to create a CORES account prior to accessing DIRS. Current DIRS users with an existing CORES account will not need to create a new DIRS account. New DIRS users will first need to register in CORES, and then create a new DIRS account. The username and password you establish in CORES is also used for DIRS. Detailed information on creating DIRS accounts, as well as using the system, can be found in the user’s guide, available at https://www.fcc.gov/sites/default/files/DIRS-UserGuide-122023.docx.

During the Open Commission meeting, the FCC also proposed additional new requirements in a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM), which would require all broadband providers to submit reports in NORS and/or DIRS as well as requiring “after action” reports.  The FNPRM seeks comment on:

  • Whether to require TV and radio broadcasters, satellite providers, and broadband Internet access service (BIAS) providers to report in NORS and/or DIRS. The Commission is specifically asking how to define an “outage” in the context of broadband service. For voice outages, the Commission uses a 900,000 user minutes threshold and asks whether this same metric is appropriate for broadband outages.
  • Whether providers should be required to supply the Commission with “after action” reports detailing how their networks fared during the emergency or disaster event.

JSI encourages providers to share their opinions on these additions being considered and provide the Commission with information on the burden it presents. For questions about the new or proposed rules or how to comply, please contact Lans Chase or Kim Waldvogel. For assistance filing comments on the proposed rules, please contact Jenn Holtz.