GAO report on FCC and IP network stability

GAO: FCC needs better data on IP transition

As the nation moves from legacy communications networks built to handle phone calls to systems that rely on Internet Protocol-based networks to provide voice, data and video communications, the resiliency of IP networks in emergencies is increasingly critical.

To evaluate the reliability of power-dependent IP communications during emergencies, the Government Accountability Office examined the potential challenges to IP networks in times of crisis, how the challenges may affect end users and the actions the Federal Communications Commission, other federal agencies and communications carriers have taken to ensure the reliability of IP communications.

To ensure the networks and equipment will function during a crisis, the FCC requires communications carriers to give IP network customers information on backup power sources as well as provide support for 911 services and for customers with disabilities. Network carriers told the GAO that building resiliency and reliability into their IP networks is a part of their emergency planning. The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, has developed a Communications Sector Specific Plan that provides a framework for industry and government partners to establish a coordinated strategy to protect the nation’s critical communications infrastructure

While the FCC is also collecting data on the IP transition, GAO said it could do more to ensure it has the information it needs to make data-driven decisions. The data FCC is collecting will come primarily through voluntary experiments run by telecommunications carriers. GAO said it’s unclear if the FCC will be able to make informed decisions about the IP transition because of the limited scale of experiments.

The GAO recommends that the FCC continue to strengthen its data collection efforts on the transition’s effects. Read the full report here

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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