In an open letter sent last Thursday to the FCC’s Chairman and Commissioners, the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) signaled the critical importance of over-the-air-delivered news and information following the recent East Coast earthquake.
The letter also flagged the fallibility of wired communication systems in times of crisis, stating:
“Once again, as wireless networks failed under stress from predictably increased call volumes, broadcast television stations were on the air offering an uninterrupted real time service available simultaneously to anyone, and everyone, with a television set.
“Wireless networks simply are not now, and never will be, in a position to deliver the sort of ubiquitous, bandwidth intensive information during a time of crisis that broadcast television and Mobile DTV stations delivered on Tuesday. Merely allocating additional spectrum to wireless networks will not enable them to do so. Cellular economics do not allow for the massive buildout of network infrastructure that would be necessary to support the large call and data volume that invariably is triggered by mass events of this nature.”
The letter reflected on events following last March’s massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, noting that public safety official relied exclusively on off-air broadcast television service to disseminate information about evacuation plans, rescue operations and safety precautions to Japanese citizens, due to the failure of that the country’s point-to-point wireless communication systems in the aftermath of the twin natural disasters. It further drove home the inability of wireless networks to handle communications in time of crisis by stating:
“Fortunately, Tuesday's earthquake was a minor event, involving no loss of life, minimal property damage and little more than temporary inconvenience for most Washington-area residents. Yet we can't help noting that even in these relatively benign circumstances, both network operators and the Department of Homeland Security were urging consumers not to use their mobile phones, and instead to rely on e-mail and text messages to stay informed and communicate with friends and family, because network congestion so severely limited the effectiveness of mobile networks.”
The letter, signed by OMVC’s president, Vince Sadusky, closed with an admonishment for the commission to “recognize and support” the importance of broadcasters and Mobile DTV in disseminating information to citizens.
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