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April 21, 2006

Better Communication in Disasters – Help From CBS News

There is a very helpful article In a Crisis, Will Your Phone Work? on CBS News.  It covers the petition which Jeff Pulver and I filed with the FCC requesting that local phone companies be required to provide voice mail and call forwarding when phone lines are out of order or unreachable for more than twelve hours.

The news story fleshes out the case for the petition with stories of evacuees who were unnecessarily unreachable  after Katrina because of a lack of such service and statistics on how long it took to reunite families from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The article also says:

“BellSouth lawyers are studying the emergency voicemail and call forwarding proposal and expect to provide a formal response to the FCC, but company spokesman Bill McCloskey says new government-imposed rules may not be the answer.”

Fact is Jeff and I never would have proposed a government rule if the local monopoly had taken these steps on their own in the last catastrophe or ported the out-of-service and unreachable numbers to one of the companies which volunteered to provide free voice mail for the duration of the disaster.  If BellSouth and the other local telcos wants to preempt regulation by making provisions NOW to provide this service in the next disaster, I’ll stand up and cheer.

But if you don’t want to hold your breath until that happens and haven’t already commented on the petition, please do so at the FCC website http://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/upload_v2.cgi and be sure to put RM-11327 in the first line of the form to indicate what petition you are responding to. Only a few sentence are needed.  The deadline for response is April 27 so best not to delay.

More arguments for this available here and here.  My original post right after Katrina hoping naively that this relief would happen then is here.

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