The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously adopted a framework for sharing communications outage information with Federal, state, and Tribal nation agencies.

The intention behind the framework is “to improve [the agencies’] situational awareness, enhance their ability to respond more quickly to outages affecting their communities, and to help save lives, while safeguarding the confidentiality of this data.”

The FCC shares information on the status of communication services through its Network Outage Reporting System (NORS) and Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). During disasters, the FCC also makes the information available to the Department of Homeland Security to aid the department in assessing the needs of impacted areas and coordinate emergency response efforts with state and local first responders.

In a statement, the FCC said the move to adopt the new framework was driven by the FCC’s experience with recent major outages. It said that experience “underscores the value of reliable and timely outage information to the rapid restoration of communications and the crucial role that state and other government authorities play in this restoration.”

Under the new framework, the FCC will provide “direct, read-only access to NORS and DIRS filings to agencies of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Tribal nations, territories, and Federal government that have official duties that make them directly responsible for emergency management and first responder support functions.”

The new rules will allow participating agencies to share NORS and DIRS information with first responders and other government officials who play a vital public safety role during crises and have a need to know this information. Additionally, participating agencies will also be allowed to publicly disclose information that is aggregated and anonymized.

The FCC did note that all participating agencies must preserve the confidentiality of NORS and DIRS filings in order to protect sensitive communications status data. As part of the recent action, the FCC also adopted an application process that will only grant agencies access to the information after they certify the requirements for maintaining the confidentiality of the data and the security of the databases.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs