NAB Implores FCC to Include Broadcasters in Sandy Hearings

WASHINGTON – Consider the role played by broadcasters during Hurricane Sandy during field hearings into the storm. That’s the message in a letter from National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Gordon Smith to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The chairman recently announced that the commission would commence a series of field hearings early next year, focused on the resiliency of communications networks during and after Superstorm Sandy, which left millions on the East Coast without power and communications. Wireless networks were particularly hard hit.

Smith’s letter noted that, “… In many cities and for millions of people in Sandy’s path, broadcasters were the only source of information during those difficult days. Many stations provided continuous coverage of the storm, day after day, in an effort to serve their local communities. Service to community is the lifeblood of the local broadcaster, and we take seriously our role as first informers during times of crisis.”

He told Genachowski that “broadcasters are eager to participate in these field hearings.” They are to include “businesses, public safety officials, engineering and academic experts, consumers and other stakeholders,” according to Genachowki’s announcement.

Topics of inquiry will include how wireless providers prepared for the storm, and if subscribers were notified of alternative forms of communication. The commission will explore how providers shared resources such as cell sites, WiFi networks and transmission facilities, and if the agency can facilitate such arrangements.

In many areas, the service disruptions were due to power outages. The commission will look into what type of back-up power sources were available, how they might be updated, and at what cost. It will also explore transport connectivity, which experienced points of failure during the storm. E.g., how interconnection and switching can be made more resilient, and what backhaul technologies are most reliant.

The hearings, not yet scheduled, will begin in New York.