Photo of Wesley K. Wright

At its Open Meeting on April 22, the FCC adopted a Third Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on proposed rules changes to 911 outage reporting. The proposed rules aim to help 911 call centers maintain emergency services and inform the public when to use alternatives to calling 911.

Customer Notification

One of the biggest proposed change is an obligation for Covered 911 Service Providers (“C9SP”) to notify “potentially affected customers,” of a 911 outage “as soon as possible, but no later than within 60 minutes of discovering that 911 is unavailable.”  The notice should be posted on the main page of the provider’s website and any Internet- or web-based applications and include: (i) a statement that there is an outage affecting 911 availability; (ii) alternative contact information to reach emergency services at the request of the affected PSAP(s), if such information is available; (iii) the time 911 service became unavailable; (iv) the time the affected service provider estimates that 911 service will become available again; and (v) the locations where customers are—or are expected to be—experiencing 911 unavailability.

The Commission seeks a wide range of input on this requirement, such as whether an outage should include instances where text-to-911 is still available when traditional voice calls are not and whether loss of transmission of ALI or ANI prompts public notification. The FCC proposes these notification requirements take effect by June 1, 2022.

PSAP Notification

The proposed rules would also require C9SPs to maintain up-to-date contact information for 911 outage notifications for each 911 special facility served. This must be updated annually.

The information provided to these contacts would also expand under the proposed rules, though it would be limited to available information. The proposed rule change mentions: (i) the name of the C9SP notifying the PSAP; (ii) the name of the provider(s) experiencing the outage; (iii) the date and time when the incident began; (iv) the types of communications service(s) affected; (v) the geographic area affected by the outage; (vi) expectations for how the outage might affect the 911 special facility (ex: dropped calls, missing metadata); (vii) the expected date and time of restoration; (viii) the best-known cause of the outage; (ix) the name, phone number, and email address at which the C9SP can be reached for follow-up; and (x) a statement as to whether the communication is the initial notification, an update, or the final outage assessment.

The FCC also asks what safeguards should be in place to protect this sensitive information from public disclosure. The FCC proposes that these notification requirements take effect by April 1, 2022.

Reliability Certification Changes

The FCC also proposed some changes to the 911 reliability certification. Specifically, the FCC seeks comment on whether less frequent reliability certifications should be required of C9SPs (ex: requiring C9SPs to submit reliability certifications every other year while requiring C9SPs to submit certifications if they have performed a “material network change”). The Commission also proposes requiring C9SPs that cease being a C9SP to notify the FCC via an affidavit during the time period that the reliability certification portal is open. Finally, the FCC notes that the reliability certification portal is open form July 30 – October 15 and asks if this is an adequate duration for providers.