09.10.17

AMIDST IRMA, ON HEELS OF HARVEY & WITH FLASHBACKS OF SANDY, SCHUMER PUSHES NEW LAW THAT WOULD KEEP US CONNECTED WHEN CELL TOWERS FALL & POWER LINES GO DOWN DURING MAJOR STORMS; PLAN WOULD REQUIRE EVERY CELL PHONE CARRIER TO CARRY ALL SIGNALS DURING EMERGENCIES; NYC & LI KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LOSE TOUCH

New Plan Would Mean Your Cell Phone Carrier Maintains Your Access To Cell Signal & Lifesaving Info; Also Starts Process to Provide 911 Services Over Wi-Fi Hotspots; When Sandy Hit NY & LI, Cell Towers Fell & Families Lost Touch; Irma Delivering Much Of Same Right Now

Making Sure Loved Ones & Family Members Can Stay In Touch When Powerful Hurricanes Hit Home Must Be A Fed Priority; Senator Says SANDy Act Would Help Prevent Major Comms Breakdowns Experienced By Millions When Big Storms Pounce

Schumer: This Hurricane Season Demands Putting Sandy Act On Speed Dial To Fix Comms Hang-ups Across U.S.

In the midst of Florida’s Hurricane Irma, on the heels of Texas’ Harvey, and with flashbacks of Sandy, where a quarter of the wireless networks were down, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced, today, that he will be making a major push to pass the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act (SANDy Act; S.102). As Irma pounces on Florida and this hurricane season churns, Schumer said a common sense law such as this would formally recognize that the majority of U.S. households rely on cellphones as their primary method of communication. Moreover, those who do use land lines, often use a service that delivers operability via an internet connection. This reality makes wireless towers and antennae networks more critical than ever, and is the reason Schumer is pushing to pass the SANDy Act this hurricane season.

“Dependable and redundant cell phone service is a necessity for emergency workers and a lifeline for residents left without power,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.  “After Sandy hit, far too many impacted residents struggled to get service because far too many cell towers were rendered inoperable and we have seen these impacts with so many other storms. That’s why in an age where many people only have cell phones, we must make sure they can use them. While providers have worked to ensure backup power to towers and agreed to other methods that help to keep Americans connected, what we need is a law on the books that is fit for the times, and that is what the SANDy Act very clearly provides.”

Schumer detailed the major aspects of the SANDy Act, which include:

  • Ensuring that during an emergency consumer cell phones work on other carriers’ networks even if their own network becomes inoperable.
  • Assigning priority calling to 9-1-1 services and emergency communications from networks and local emergency services.
  • Begin a process to provide 9-1-1 services over Wi-Fi hotspots during emergencies.
  • Make sure all communication providers—TV, land line, radio—can fix outages faster, even across state lines.
  • Directing FEMA to play an even larger role in the aftermath of storms as it relates to downed power lines and cell towers—having the agency at the table during the re-connecting stage of storm recovery. 

Schumer said that the necessity of a broad federal law that focuses on communications will grow more important every day as more and more customers abandon wired telephone lines.  Among the things Schumer has pushed communications providers to consider are backup generators, alternate power sources, temporary towers and mobile trucks.  Schumer also suggested they investigate ways to "harden" cell infrastructure, making it less susceptible to damage.

Schumer recalled, in the wake of Sandy, people across the region suffered with no cell phone service. And he worries Floridians could see similar types of situations.  

“I remember, in neighborhoods of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Lower Manhattan, and Long Island, there was a virtual communications blackout, with residents struggling to find out vital information such as where disaster aid resources were located, and what had happened to their friends, family and neighbors.  First responders were severely hindered as well – in Long Beach, for example, special equipment needed to be brought in so they could continue to communicate,” said Schumer. “When it comes to keeping our vital communications networks up-and-running, the SANDy Act delivers the right stuff.”

Schumer said he will work with colleagues, like the Senate’s lead on the SANDy Act, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, to get this bill passed as Congress continues to address Hurricane Harvey and Irma relief. Schumer said this kind of legislation is made even more critical as climate change continues to deliver stronger hurricane seasons and storms across the U.S. 

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