In testimony to Congress Sept. 29 about continuing effects of Hurricane Katrina on public safety communications, FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin outlined a damage report to the nation’s communication infrastructure.
As of Sept. 28, the FCC survey of the damage to broadcast, cable and satellite infrastructure found:
- Broadcast:Seven TV stations have come back on-the-air; 10 remain off-the-air. The FCC has bee unable to determine exactly how many radio stations have been restored, but it knows 79 remain off-the-air.
- Cable:About 160,000 customers who lost their service as a result of Hurricane Katrina have had their service restored. As of Sept. 29 at least 445,000 customers remain without service as result of Katrina and Rita.
- Satellite:Katrina did not damage the infrastructure of satellite service providers. They have provided satellite phones and video links to law enforcement officials, medical personnel, emergency relief personnel, and news outlets.
Martin also presented three suggestions to improve communications response to future emergencies. Those include:
- Ensure that the public has the tools necessary to know when an emergency is coming and to contact first responders;
- Enable first responders to communicate seamlessly;
- Enhancing network resiliency.
Seamless communications of first responders — particularly the interoperability of communications systems of local emergency personnel nationwide — has been the focus of scrutiny from the 911 Commission and most recently Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Following Katrina, McCain called for an accelerated schedule to return analog TV spectrum based on the need to free up spectrum for an interoperable first responder communications system.
In his testimony, Martin said there are two essential elements to such an interoperable communications system: it must allow “different organizations from different jurisdictions to communication with each other” via voice and data, which in turn requires sufficient spectrum; it must be able to be deployed and restored quickly.
Martin’s comments were presented to the House subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.
For more information, visit www.fcc.gov.
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