The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to ensure that service providers have to meet emergency reporting requirements during disasters and outages.

The regulator has voted to approve the Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to improve the usage of its Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS).

According to the FCC, this will enable improved network reliability, resiliency, and transparency during disasters and outages.

Hurricane map
– Getty Images

The new legislation aims to ensure that all providers of voice service must report any network outage to NORS (Network Outage Reporting System).

However, up until now industry participation with DIRS has been voluntary— which can often result in information gaps that impair emergency response.

As a result of this, it's led to gaps with NORS because some communications providers are not required to participate, notes the FCC.

"Through DIRS, communications providers voluntarily share with the FCC information about the operational status of their networks. This data is absolutely vital," said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

"When a storm hits, it means we have information that we can share with other federal agencies as well as state and local first responders to assist those on the ground with facts about where disconnections have occurred, where operations are vulnerable, and where restoration efforts are required. However, there are gaps in this data. Not every provider files this data with us. Not every technology is covered by our rules. I think these gaps are unacceptable. Everyone needs communication to work in crisis. So we need to close them."

The FCC said that in order to address these gaps it has now adopted rules that require cable communications, wireline, wireless, and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to report daily infrastructure status information when DIRS is activated for geographic areas in which they provide service.

On top of this, it said NORS reporting obligations will be suspended when providers are required to report in DIRS during a disaster, so they are not obligated to report twice.

The new rules also require DIRS filers to provide a single, final summary DIRS report to the Commission within 24 hours of the deactivation of DIRS.

The regulator said it wants comments on whether to require TV and radio broadcasters, satellite providers, and broadband Internet access service (BIAS) providers to report in NORS and/or DIRS.