Wednesday, September 14, 2005

FCC to Establish New Public Safety/Homeland Security Bureau

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced the following steps that the FCC will take in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

  • Provide over $211 million of immediate relief to the affected areas using universal service funding. The FCC will use the Low Income Program to help those who have been cut off to reestablish their lines of communication. For all people eligible for FEMA disaster assistance, the FCC will provide support for wireless handsets and a package of 300 free minutes for evacuees and people still in the affected area without telephone service. For all people eligible for FEMA disaster assistance, the FCC will provide support to pay the costs of reconnecting consumers to the network as the disaster-struck area is rebuilt.

  • The FCC will use the E-rate Program to help reconnect schools and libraries throughout the region. The Commission can authorize $96 million in E-rate funds for the approximately 600 schools and libraries in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama hit by the hurricane.

  • Examine ways to improve network reliability and public safety communications in times of crisis The FCC will establish an independent expert panel composed of public safety and communications industry representatives that will be charged with reviewing the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the communications infrastructure in the affected area. The panel will make recommendations to the Commission regarding ways to improve disaster preparedness, network reliability, and communication among first responders such as police, fire fighters and emergency medical personnel.

  • FCC Chairman Martin will create a new FCC bureau to better coordinate planning and response efforts when disaster strikes. The new Public Safety/Homeland Security Bureau will coordinate public safety, national security, and disaster management activities within the FCC. It will have responsibility for issues including:

  • Public Safety Communications, including 911 centers and first responders

  • Priority Emergency Communications

  • Alert and Warning of U.S. Citizens

  • Continuity of Government Operations

  • Disaster Management Coordination (i.e., infrastructure reporting and analysis in times of disaster)

  • Disaster Management Outreach

  • Communications Infrastructure Protection

  • Network Reliability and Interoperability

  • Network Security

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps: "Last year, The 9/11 Commission Report described a state of communications unreadiness that seriously hindered our country's ability to respond to that attack. But it also described a chilling picture of communications unreadiness three years later--and Hurricane Katrina has shown that to be still tragically true. Now people are talking again about the need for full-scale emergency planning. This time we dare not fail.... We saw the results of communications failures on 9/11. We saw them during the East Coast black-out, and now--again--with Katrina. Maybe this time, at last, we can put our separate resources and talents together to get the job done."


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