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house Bill H.R. 3998

Ensuring Affordable Access to Telecommunication Networks After Disasters

Argument in favor

Americans need to be able to rely on their communications systems after a disaster strikes. This bill would ensure that people can use their cell phones and other devices at reasonable rates while also making it easier for communication infrastructure to be repaired.

Caldwell's Opinion
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05/24/2016
US must improve response to disasters. This is one step.
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Primey's Opinion
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05/24/2016
Seems like a no brainer. Communication is instrumental during crisis. The more accessible it is, the better. And corporations shouldn't be able to capitalize on others misfortunes.
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Keeper1029's Opinion
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05/25/2016
If a disaster hits a specific area in this country or affects the entire country communication will be vital for all citizens. That includes cell phone, Internet, and television. If and when a disaster happens people need information to know what to do and how to call family members.
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Argument opposed

There’s no guarantee that this bill’s provisions would ensure that communications systems are up and running after any given disaster, regardless of the severity. Coordination between the feds and the private sector on this is a good start, but they may not be successful.

operaman's Opinion
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05/24/2016
I'm sure local and state can handle this issue without any Federal integration. Must the Federal Government be involved in all aspects of our life?
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Mart's Opinion
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05/23/2016
If govt is doing it, it won't be affordable
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Lawrence's Opinion
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05/23/2016
Why waste more money when the focus should be the economy and wasteful spending by congress.
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What is House Bill H.R. 3998?

This bill seeks to improve the resiliency of telecommunications systems in the aftermath of emergencies and natural disasters. It would apply to emergencies where federal assistance is provided by a presidential declaration or if the governor of a U.S. state or territory.

This legislation would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to begin proceedings about mobile service providers’ roaming agreements in order to:

  • Allow for mobile service at reasonable rates during emergencies when there is a service outage lasting over 24 hours;

  • Provide for roaming agreements at no charge for communications during emergencies that are to or from 911 services.

The FCC would be required to create a master point of contact directory to improve communications between public safety answering points and telecommunications service providers.

The definition of “essential service provider” would be broadened to include all communications service providers, so that they can access a disaster site to repair and restore services following an emergency without being blocked by a federal agency. That would include providers or services related to wireline and mobile telephone, internet, radio and TV broadcasting, cable, and direct broadcast satellite services.

Impact

People who need to use their cell phones during an emergency that otherwise might not have service; FEMA; and the FCC.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 3998

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced this bill to ensure that America’s communications networks are resilient enough to withstand disasters and still provide service to residents of affected areas, unlike the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy:

“During the storm and for weeks afterwards, many of us were left stranded, with no way to reach friends, to call loved ones, or even to call for help. That is simply unacceptable.  So today I am introducing the SANDy Act to ensure we can all communicate, even when the worst occurs.  We must do everything we can to be better prepared for the next time disaster strikes.”

This legislation was passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a voice vote, and has the support of four Democratic cosponsors.


Of Note: This bill initially contained a provision requiring wireless providers to improve their network resiliency and share information about that resiliency before, during, and after disasters. However, that was removed following an announcement by several major wireless providers including AT&T and Verizon that they would voluntarily provide that data.



Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Andrea Booher/FEMA via the FEMA Photo Library. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

AKA

Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act

Official Title

To direct the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a study on network resiliency during times of emergency, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
  • The house Passed May 23rd, 2016
    Roll Call Vote 389 Yea / 2 Nay
      house Committees
      Communications and Technology
      Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
    IntroducedNovember 16th, 2015

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    US must improve response to disasters. This is one step.
    Like (5)
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    I'm sure local and state can handle this issue without any Federal integration. Must the Federal Government be involved in all aspects of our life?
    Like (12)
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    If govt is doing it, it won't be affordable
    Like (7)
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    Why waste more money when the focus should be the economy and wasteful spending by congress.
    Like (5)
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    Seems like a no brainer. Communication is instrumental during crisis. The more accessible it is, the better. And corporations shouldn't be able to capitalize on others misfortunes.
    Like (4)
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    Countable member David said: "Again [too] much control in government hands. If there is a real need then people need to rattle the cages of the providers." Countable member GrumpyMSgt said: "Really! Another back door attempt for the Feds to get their dirty little fingers on the internet. We do not need government over site of communications systems." Countable member "operaman" said: "I'm sure local and state can handle this issue without any Federal integration. Must the Federal Government be involved in all aspects of our life?" But what if that disaster is an EMP attack on this nation?! Affordable access to telecommunications networks will be the least of our worries! If y'all haven't read William Forstchen's novel " One Second After," I HIGHLY recommend that you do so! Be prepared! Whether it comes from our sun or an enemy government, an EMP would cause many, many deaths and widespread social upheaval! We would have trouble getting food, medicine, and protection from our law enforcement and government agencies! We would be thrown back into the dark ages. Such an attack is within the capability of several of our enemies. And without a "hardened" electrical infrastructure, we would have no modern means of communication, travel, or anything else that relies upon electricity! This SOUNDS like a good idea, especially if you don't have a landline anymore and are reliant on your cellphone. Ideally, our states should solve this issue! If your state has already solved it, great! If your state isn't inclined to want to do something about it, that COULD BE a big problem for you! OTOH, it WOULD give a lot of power over ALL of our communication systems, which COULD end up being a BIG PROBLEM for all of us! The bill has already passed the House with only 2 NAYs, so now we'll have to see what the Senate does with it. Statistically Notable Votes: Vote Party Representative District Nay R McClintock, Tom CA 4th Nay R Massie, Thomas KY 4th https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/114-2016/h230 Impact: People who need to use their cell phones during an emergency that otherwise might not have service; FEMA; and the FCC. Description: This legislation would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to begin proceedings about mobile service providers’ roaming agreements in order to: Allow for mobile service at reasonable rates during emergencies when there is a service outage lasting over 24 hours; Provide for roaming agreements at no charge for communications during emergencies that are to or from 911 services. The FCC would be required to create a master point of contact directory to improve communications between public safety answering points and telecommunications service providers. The definition of “essential service provider” would be broadened to include all communications service providers, so that they can access a disaster site to repair and restore services following an emergency without being blocked by a federal agency. That would include providers or services related to wireline and mobile telephone, internet, radio and TV broadcasting, cable, and direct broadcast satellite services.
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    We all know cell phone communications systems can only handle so much loading. At the time of emergency it should be first responders with priority, then others as needed. The Red Cross has emergency communications for reaching out to family members without tying up communications systems. We already experienced this on 9/11 with our daughter in NYC and us in Orgeon. All worked out even though cell phone and land lines were over crowded. So no to this bill. To many folks would abuse the system.
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    If a disaster hits a specific area in this country or affects the entire country communication will be vital for all citizens. That includes cell phone, Internet, and television. If and when a disaster happens people need information to know what to do and how to call family members.
    Like (3)
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    Really! Another back door attempt for the Feds to get their dirty little fingers on the internet. We do not need government over site of communications systems.
    Like (2)
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    Improve it for disasters because communication is paramount at that time.
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    Governors call states of emergency if there is a turkey shortage! This just seems like a well-intentioned bill that leaves too many gaps and was poorly written.
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    After Katrina, It makes since logically to ensure that all telecommunications are up and working properly, in case of a disaster. I cannot come to any rational point of view against the bill, other than oversight and accountability must be strong and work efficiently enough to spot corruption fraud, waste etc.
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    It's important
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    In a disaster communications is one of the most vital functions to be restored during the recovery phase
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    Could we add "affordable housing" to the bill as well and remove the mandate of it being after disasters or must we wait for more to die?
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    Summer is here and emergency communication is very important. Especially for the elderly and disabled. I hope we have organized communications for any emergency that may arise. I hope this will not be the case, but our country should always be prepared.
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    State and local governments can barely maintain their infrastructure on a daily basis so how does anyone think they could ever do this job effectively. Any forget Katrina? Yeah FEMA fucked up too, but not as bad as the state and city.
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    In my opinion, we already have have too much governmental regulations and control. Supply and demand will fill the short comings without any "new laws"... The private sector is way better at dealing with these issues.
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    This sounds like big federal dollars for big, profitable communication companies. NO
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    There are already provisions for emergency communications via other avenues, e.g., American Red Cross. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Pallone that has accepted in excess of $60K from the telecommunications industry, seems to be yet another example of lobbyist-written legislation to fleece the American taxpayers.
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