FCC Releases 911 Outage Reporting NPRM

On April 23, 2021, the FCC released the Third Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) in the Improving 911 Reliability/Outage Reporting Matters, which was adopted by the Commission at the April Open Meeting.  The NPRM seeks to improve the framework for reporting network disruptions that affect 911 service and harmonize the reporting requirements of covered 911 service providers and originating service providers.  The NPRM seeks comment on the following:

  1. Harmonizing the reporting requirements such that all originating service providers and covered 911 service providers notify PSAPs of network outages that prevent consumers from calling 911 within the same timeframe, by the same means, and with the same frequency.  Specifically, originating and covered providers would be required to notify a PSAP of a network outage as soon as possible, but not later than 30 minutes after discovering the outage, by both telephone and writing via electronic means, and that additional material information must be communicated as soon as possible but not later than two hours after it is discovered.
  2. Requiring originating service providers and covered 911 service providers to include “all available material information” in the PSAP outage notifications, which would include the specific information elements articulated for covered 911 service providers in the current rules, the name of the service provider offering the notification, the name of the service provider experiencing the outage, the date and time when the incident began, the type of communications service affected, the geographic area affected by the outage, a statement of the notifying service provider’s expectations of how the outage will affect the PSAP, the expected date and time of restoration, the best-known cause of the outage, and a statement whether this is the initial notification, an update to the initial notification, or a final assessment notification.
  3. Requiring originating service providers and covered 911 service providers to develop and implement procedures for gathering, maintaining, and updating PSAP contact information for the PSAPs that they serve.  Specifically, originating and covered providers would be required to maintain the contact information for officials designated to receive outage notifications at each PSAP in the areas they serve, which would then be reviewed on a routine basis, at least annually, to ensure it remains current.  In addition, the FCC seeks comment on whether a contact information database, accessible to and updated by originating and covered 911 service providers, as well as PSAPs, would be beneficial and if so whether it would require different or additional requirements than proposed.
  4. Requiring providers to notify their customers that 911 services are disrupted within 60 minutes of determining there is an outage by providing material information on their websites and Internet-related applications.  Such notices would be required when the outage meet the NORS reporting threshold and would need to state that there is an outage affecting 911 availability, provide the geographic areas that are affected, and estimate when the service became unavailable and when the service would be restored.
  5. Whether less frequent reliability certifications would reduce compliance burdens while still ensuring that the 911 networks are reliable.
  6. How to define “administrative line” for the reliability rules.
  7. Codifying the 2016 rules exempting satellite and terrestrial wireless providers from reporting outages that potentially affect airports and special offices and facilities.
  8. A proposed compliance deadline of April 1, 2022 for all adopted rules.
  9. The benefits and costs of the proposals contained in the NPRM, which the FCC tentatively estimates would impose a $2,398,000 onetime cost and $4,557,000 annually recurring cost on all service providers.

On April 1, 2021, the FCC released the draft Third Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Draft NPRM”) in the Improving 911 Reliability/Outage Reporting matters. The following substantive changes were made from the Draft NPRM :

  • ¶ 16 – adding a new paragraph recognizing that in certain circumstances, PSAPs may benefit from learning about outages or network disruptions that potentially affect 911 but do not meet the FCC’s current reporting thresholds and seeking comments on whether the current reporting threshold should be modified.
  • ¶ 21 – including a request for comment on what steps service providers would need to take to include geographical information in providing actionable information to PSAPs and asking commenters to describe in detail how PSAPs would use such data to benefit the public, including how it could reduce first responder times.
  • ¶ 34 – including a request for comment on whether users and creators of a PSAP contact information database should be prohibited from using that information for any other purpose not related to public safety or maintenance of the database.
  • ¶ 35 – including a request for comment on whether service provider liability concerns would be more appropriately addressed through a requirement that service providers contracting with third party database operators require those operators to implement measures to ensure the accuracy of the third-party database that are at least as stringent as the measure that the service providers employ for their internal databases as opposed to establishing a safe harbor rule.

Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel and Commissioner Starks issued separate statements approving of the NPRM.

Comments will be due 30 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

Reply comments will be due 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

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