FCC Clarifies 9-1-1 Reliability Rules

The FCC released an order on reconsideration that addresses a motion for clarification or, in the alternative, petition for partial reconsideration of an order that the FCC adopted in 2013 aimed at ensuring that 911 service remains available during and after disasters (TRDaily, Dec. 12, 2013).

In its filing (TRDaily, Feb. 27, 2014), Intrado, Inc., asked the FCC “to confirm that Section 12.4 (b) of the agency’s rules permits Covered 911 Service Providers to take reasonable alternative measures with respect to auditing, tagging, and eliminating single points of failure with respect to Critical 911 Circuits and auditing network Monitoring Links. In the alternative, Intrado respectfully requests the Commission reconsider the Report and Order and amend Subsections 12.4 (c)(1) and (3) to provide flexibility to enable Providers to take reasonable alternative measures in lieu of auditing, tagging, and eliminating single points of failure with respect to Critical 911 Circuits and auditing network Monitoring Links.”

“Specifically, we clarify that under section 12.4 of the Commission’s rules, Covered 911 Service Providers may implement and certify an alternative measure for any of the specific certification elements, as long as they provide an explanation of how such alternative measures are reasonably sufficient to mitigate the risk of failure,” the FCC said in the order released today in PS dockets 13-75 and 11-60. “We believe that this should include an explanation of how the alternative will mitigate such risk at least to a comparable extent as the measures specified in our rules. While it may be possible that an alternative measure that cannot be shown to be comparable in reducing the risk of failure could be deemed reasonably sufficient in a particular case, a provider advancing such an alternative measure will face a heavy burden in demonstrating why comparability cannot be achieved, how the risk of failure has been reduced, and why, given the level to which the risk has been reduced, the measure taken to achieve this result should be regarded as reasonably sufficient to address the vulnerabilities at issue.”

The 2013 order was adopted on a 3-2 vote, with Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Mike O’Rielly dissenting. In a separate statement on the order released today, Mr. O’Rielly reiterated his belief that the FCC should have thought more carefully about the original rules it adopted.

“Regardless, I can support today’s order, because the clarification provides necessary flexibility when it comes to certifying compliance with the 911 reliability requirements,” he said. “By permitting entities to show that they have implemented ‘alternative measures’ for any of the prescriptive certification elements (e.g., circuit diversity auditing and network monitoring), entities will be able to implement reliability measures tailored to their individual networks. This should promote innovation, adoption of NG911 capabilities and, most importantly, resilient emergency communications systems that will ensure that Americans can reach first responders in times of need.” – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com