The FCC should bolster its efforts to collect data so it can analyze the effects of the Internet protocol technology transition, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released December 16. The FCC is “collecting data on the IP transition, but FCC could do more to ensure it has the information it needs to make data-driven decisions about the transition,” said GAO. “FCC has emphasized that one of its statutory responsibilities is to ensure that its core values, including public safety capabilities and consumer protection, endure as the nation transitions to modernized networks. FCC stated that fulfilling this responsibility requires learning more about how the transition affects consumers. FCC plans on collecting data on the IP transition primarily through voluntary experiments proposed and run by telecommunications carriers.”
But the report said that “it is unclear if FCC will be able to make data-driven decisions about the IP transition because of the limited number and scale of the proposed experiments. In particular, there are only three proposed experiments that cover a very limited number of consumers; none of the experiments covers consumer services in high-density urban areas or includes critical national-security or public-safety locations.”
GAO also noted that the Commission “sought comment on how to supplement its data-gathering process; however, soliciting comments may not necessarily result in a change in FCC’s existing policies. GAO found FCC lacks a detailed strategy that outlines how it will address its remaining information needs. Developing a strategy for collecting information about how the IP transition affects public safety and consumers would help FCC make data-driven decisions and address areas of uncertainty as it oversees the IP transition.”
In a Dec. 8 letter to the GAO, David Simpson, chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, said “it is essential that the Commission has sufficient information to make informed decisions” on the IP transitions. “The Commission has in place a comprehensive data strategy, using the Commission’s currently available resources and information technology, to oversee the Nation’s technology transitions based on our enduring values. This strategy, however, could be strengthened through the provision of additional resources to leverage big data analytics capability.”
Mr. Simpson added that “[t]he speculative horizon of these multiple transitions makes any attempt to quantify the effects difficult at best.”
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.), the ranking minority member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, who had asked GAO to conduct the study, said today that the FCC should improve the resiliency of the nation’s communications networks during disasters.
“When a storm hits, residents must know that they will be able to call for help and connect with friends and loved ones,” said Rep. Pallone. “Natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy are threatening our nation’s critical infrastructure, and as global climate change produces more frequent and intense weather events, improving network resiliency must be our priority. This report confirms that we must do more to ensure that we are prepared when disaster strikes, and I hope that the FCC will heed these recommendations to protect public safety.”
“Our citizens expect first responders will be there when they need help—making it all the more critical that present and future communications networks, such as 911, are resilient and rapidly restored after natural or manmade disasters,” said Senator Nelson. “I expect that the FCC will take the report’s recommendations seriously and redouble its efforts to ensure that public safety remains front and center as communication technologies continue to evolve.” —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org