FCC’s CSRIC APPROVES RECOMMENDATIONS ON TEXT-TO-911, EAS, ROAMING IN DISASTERS

The FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) today approved a range of working group reports covering interim text-to-911 systems, the emergency alert system, and roaming during disasters.

Working Group 1 presented a final report on PSAP requests for service for interim SMS text-to-911, providing recommended best practices for 911 authorities to use when requesting short-term short messaging service text-to-911 services. The best practices address how to request the service; how to test and deploy the service; how to address operational considerations before, during, and after the deployment; and considerations related to security.

Working Group 1 also presented a report offering guidance to the FCC on establishing a permanent entity to design, develop, and manage an ongoing public test bed for indoor location technologies.

The consensus on the test methodology was to adopt “in full or in large part, the CSRIC III test methodology for near term use, and then to extend this approach to better adapt it to indoor localization technologies which may be tested for E911 purposes in a number of years,” the working group report says. “The testing process developed and implemented in the CSRIC III testing in San Francisco is expected to improve in time as refinements are made, and as feedback from all stakeholders is incorporated into the process.”

The guidance recommends that costs for each test cycle be borne by test participants and that federal agencies “pursue funding to support the fixed costs” of the test bed.

Working Group 3 offered in initial report on possible steps the FCC can take to improve the emergency alert system. The group recommended “modest guidelines to secure EAS in its current state.” All stakeholders should incorporate EAS into their existing IT security programs or establish one if they don’t have one, it said.

The working group said EAS work “can never be considered complete since the threats and vulnerabilities of the EAS ecosystem, the devices themselves, the participants, and operators of the gear will continue to change and evolve.” The document should be considered a “starting point that should be reviewed and renewed on a regular basis or become stale and unreliable as a source of ground truth for security recommendations for EAS,” it said.

Working Group 3 also issued another report recommending specific guidelines for the timing and propagation of national EAS alerts. “The EAS system was created to serve as the method for the President to communicate with the general public during a national emergency including times when normal channels may become unavailable, impaired, disabled, or compromised,” the report says. “In practice, the system is used more frequently for state and local alerting. National alerting has been used only once when tested in November, 2011. At that time, issues came to light involving differing interpretations of how the alert was to be issued and relayed.”

Another report, from Working Group 10A, addressed consumer outreach related to customer premises equipment powering. It offered recommendations on developing communications plans in case of power outages with a consideration of backup battery power, how consumers should handle commercial power outages, and handling of post-outage analysis.

Working Group 9 offered recommendations on best practices related to roaming during disasters. It recommended that: (1) the FCC encourage carriers, operators, and service providers to review existing industry best practices on emergency preparedness roaming during disasters; (2) the FCC encourage carriers, operators, and service providers to review their own internal roaming processes to look for areas to streamline and update; and (3) transferring ownership of the issue from the working group to the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions. – Brian Hammond, brian.hammond@wolterskluwer.com