On June 11, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a Proposed Decision requiring wireless companies to take several actions to improve system planning and resiliency to maintain customer service during a PSPS event.

Last year’s late-October PSPS events had a devastating impact on communications networks, with 57% of cell towers losing power in Marin County, followed by 39% in Calaveras County and over 19% in each Humboldt, Lake, Napa, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma Counties. Those outages impaired the ability for many residents to receive emergency notifications and access 9-1-1 services and also frustrated local emergency response efforts.

In particular, the Proposed Decision requires wireless providers to:

  • Submit emergency operations plans to the CPUC, CalOES, and local emergency response agencies and include plans for communicating with the public during disasters and outages impacting their networks.
  • Adopt a 72-hour backup power requirement to maintain minimum service and coverage during a disaster or power outage in a high fire risk area.
  • File a comprehensive communications resiliency plan that outlines how the provider will maintain a minimum level of service during a disaster or power outage, including through use of backup power, system redundancy, network hardening, temporary facilities, preparedness planning, etc.

The CPUC will formally consider this Proposed Decision at its July hearing. While this Proposed Decision only applies to wireless companies, the CPUC indicated that it will be adopting similar requirements on wireline communications providers in a subsequent proposal.

RCRC is a party to the CPUC’s Emergency Disaster Relief Program proceeding and urged the adoption of communications system resiliency improvements in comments filed on March 26. RCRC is similarly supporting Senate Bill 431 (McGuire), which would require telecommunication providers to have backup power systems for their infrastructure in high-fire threat areas. View RCRC’s support letter here.