The California Public Utilities Commission(CPUC) has issued Decision 21-02-029, establishing new measures applicable to facilities-based wireline telecommunications providers to help ensure access to vital communications during natural disasters and electric grid outages. “Facilities-based wireline providers” are the companies responsible for infrastructure that provides or otherwise carries 9-1-1, voice, text messages, or data services. This week’s decision prioritizes resiliency for wireline facilities located in Tier 2 and Tier 3 High Fire Threat Districts.
The decision adopts a number of near and longer-term obligations aimed at preventing the kind of communications failures that have challenged first responders and critical facility operators during recent wildfires and Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events:
The CPUC responded to telecommunication companies’ jurisdictional objections by citing the CPUC’s constitutional and statutory authority to ensure maintenance of utility services during emergency conditions. Emphasizing that “uninterrupted communications service is an essential precondition for the ability of public safety officials to communicate and coordinate with each other and with the public,” the CPUC detailed its powers under Article XII of the State Constitution, Public Utilities Code, state police powers recognized under the U.S. Constitution, and established precedent.
The decision follows on Decision 19-08-025 in Phase 1, which adopted customer protection requirements for California customers of communications providers after widespread loss of service during wildfires and PSPS events.
Contact: Lynn Haug, Samantha Neumyer