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house Bill H.R. 588

Ensuring Affordable Access to Telecommunication Networks After Disasters

Argument in favor

Americans need to be able to rely on their communications systems after a disaster strikes. This bill would ensure that people can use their cell phones and other devices at reasonable rates while also making it easier for communication infrastructure to be repaired.

CPMonroe's Opinion
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01/21/2017
Carriers have been making huge profits on deregulated communication frequencies for a while now. This functionality, only implemented during emergencies or crises, is the bare minimum that businesses should have to provide in order to utilize the free, deregulated frequently(s) - e.g. a 'fair use' policy for cellular, radio, GPS, WiFi, etc. This legislation would not only bolster the efficacy of emergency & other support services but having a functional communications network during a disaster would allow rescuers to accurately locate people who might be unable to call for help.
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Rachel's Opinion
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01/21/2017
Price gouging during emergencies is unethical, and people need to be able to get in touch with loved ones in times of crisis without worrying about receiving a huge bill for it in the future.
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Noah's Opinion
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01/21/2017
There is no reason that people should be barred from trying to call family after a disaster. People lose enough in natural disasters, and it is inhumane for them to need to worry about anything else.
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Argument opposed

There’s no guarantee that this bill’s provisions would ensure that communications systems are up and running after any given disaster, regardless of the severity. Coordination between the feds and the private sector on this is a good start, but they may not be successful.

M. jeremy's Opinion
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01/21/2017
While one could agree that telecommunications are vital in the advent of a disaster, turning to "government" to wrong the world's ills is only making things worse.
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Elizabeth's Opinion
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01/21/2017
You cannot force communication companies to waive their fees, disaster or no disaster. If communication needs to be improved during disasters, you guys need to leave it to private companies (that, frankly, are already making great strides in the area) or figure out a way to do it without hampering the business economy.
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StahlGrau333's Opinion
···
01/25/2017
First and foremost, this "study" will cost the taxpayers is an attempt to nationalize private utility infrastructure on the basis of a localized, intrastate event. This is the domain of State Governments, not Congress. Even if one disagrees on that point, the Bill attempts to legislate through technical obstacles that without mentioning the incredible cost required to overcome them. For example, it requires a provider to open their WiFi access points, without any credentials required...one would think the Democrats would have learned their lesson on that one already.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
  • The house Passed January 23rd, 2017
    Passed by Voice Vote
      house Committees
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
    IntroducedJanuary 17th, 2017

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What is House Bill H.R. 588?

This bill seeks to improve the resiliency of telecommunications systems in the aftermath of emergencies and natural disasters. It would apply to emergencies where federal assistance is provided by a presidential declaration or if the governor of a U.S. state or territory.

This legislation would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to begin proceedings about mobile service providers’ roaming agreements in order to:

  • Allow for mobile service at reasonable rates during emergencies when there is a service outage lasting over 24 hours;

  • Provide for roaming agreements at no charge for communications during emergencies that are to or from 911 services.

The FCC would be required to create a master point of contact directory to improve communications between public safety answering points and telecommunications service providers.

The definition of “essential service provider” would be broadened to include all communications service providers, so that they can access a disaster site to repair and restore services following an emergency without being blocked by a federal agency. That would include providers or services related to wireline and mobile telephone, internet, radio and TV broadcasting, cable, and direct broadcast satellite services.

Impact

People who need to use their cell phones during an emergency that otherwise might not have service; FEMA; and the FCC.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 588

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced also introduced this bill during the 114th Congress. He did so help to ensure that America’s communications networks are resilient enough to withstand disasters and still provide service to residents of affected areas, unlike the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy:

“During the storm and for weeks afterwards, many of us were left stranded, with no way to reach friends, to call loved ones, or even to call for help. That is simply unacceptable.  So today I am introducing the SANDy Act to ensure we can all communicate, even when the worst occurs.  We must do everything we can to be better prepared for the next time disaster strikes.”

During the last Congress, this legislation was passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a voice vote, and has the support of four Democratic cosponsors.


Of Note: During the last Congress, an original version of this bill contained a provision requiring wireless providers to improve their network resiliency and share information about that resiliency before, during, and after disasters. However, that was removed following an announcement by several major wireless providers including AT&T and Verizon that they would voluntarily provide that data.



Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Andrea Booher/FEMA via the FEMA Photo Library. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

AKA

Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act

Official Title

To direct the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a study on network resiliency during times of emergency, and for other purposes.

    Carriers have been making huge profits on deregulated communication frequencies for a while now. This functionality, only implemented during emergencies or crises, is the bare minimum that businesses should have to provide in order to utilize the free, deregulated frequently(s) - e.g. a 'fair use' policy for cellular, radio, GPS, WiFi, etc. This legislation would not only bolster the efficacy of emergency & other support services but having a functional communications network during a disaster would allow rescuers to accurately locate people who might be unable to call for help.
    Like (138)
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    While one could agree that telecommunications are vital in the advent of a disaster, turning to "government" to wrong the world's ills is only making things worse.
    Like (13)
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    Price gouging during emergencies is unethical, and people need to be able to get in touch with loved ones in times of crisis without worrying about receiving a huge bill for it in the future.
    Like (65)
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    There is no reason that people should be barred from trying to call family after a disaster. People lose enough in natural disasters, and it is inhumane for them to need to worry about anything else.
    Like (61)
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    As an IT professional, I actually find the current (fragile) state of our telecommunications systems very troubling, especially given how much our society has come to rely on a solid technological infrastructure. Yes, I think this is *extremely* important.
    Like (20)
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    Private sector issue.
    Like (12)
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    This is about much more than just browsing the internet. In recent disasters around the world Facebook has been the primary method of finding out if your loved ones are alive thanks to its "safety check". Lives have also been saved from trapped or stranded victims being able to communicate to rescuers through use of the internet. The potential amount of lives to be saved, and full impact of this bill passing cannot be over stated.
    Like (11)
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    You cannot force communication companies to waive their fees, disaster or no disaster. If communication needs to be improved during disasters, you guys need to leave it to private companies (that, frankly, are already making great strides in the area) or figure out a way to do it without hampering the business economy.
    Like (9)
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    Charging a fee when someone calls for help is wrong. This is nickle and diming and it's not allowed under POTS land line service. Put a rein if these wireless companies and hold them more accountable for egregious pricing structures.
    Like (9)
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    We need the ability to reach out to our family in a disaster.
    Like (9)
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    Yes! Our networks do not seem to have the bandwidth or throughput (not sure which is the problem) to handle drastic increases in traffic that accompany any type of emergency. I walked in the Women's Rights March yesterday in Nashville, and though I had an LTE (Verizon) signal, data connections were nearly useless from within the crowd. That is one example of how our data networks cannot handle high traffic areas or floods of traffic in a short period of time.
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    First and foremost, this "study" will cost the taxpayers is an attempt to nationalize private utility infrastructure on the basis of a localized, intrastate event. This is the domain of State Governments, not Congress. Even if one disagrees on that point, the Bill attempts to legislate through technical obstacles that without mentioning the incredible cost required to overcome them. For example, it requires a provider to open their WiFi access points, without any credentials required...one would think the Democrats would have learned their lesson on that one already.
    Like (6)
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    Access to communication and information infrastructure is critical to life in 2017.
    Like (5)
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    Don't let the Federal dogs loose. This is a countywide or state issue. This could also become a Telecommunications issue, for example, Verizon or AT&T offering a new service. Leave this in the hands of professionals who "can make it happen."
    Like (5)
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    Internet, phone, and other telecommunication networks should be a public utility managed by local governments, much like gas, water, and trash/recycling.
    Like (5)
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    That's a private sector matter. We need to get a handle on spending and corruption before we do anything else.
    Like (5)
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    This seems like a no brainer.
    Like (5)
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    Government should not be involved in private sector
    Like (4)
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    We need the ability to communicate for safety of those in the disaster zone as well as the responders.
    Like (4)
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    Really, ensure affordable access? what would that look like? They are suppose to ensure that carriers have access to restoring services.
    Like (4)
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