H.R. 3998, Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act

H.R. 3998

Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act

Sponsor
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.

Date
May 23, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Monday, May 23, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 3998, the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act, under suspension of the rules.  H.R. 3998 was introduced on November 16, 2015 by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  The Committee on Energy and Committee ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on April 28, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3998 directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to study the resiliency of communications systems during a disaster. Specifically, the bill requires the FCC to submit a study on making Wi-Fi access points available to the public for 911 services during emergencies, and whether non-service provider owned Wi-Fi access points can provide public access to 9-1-1 services during emergencies.

In addition, the bill amends the Stafford Act to recognize additional communications services as essential service providers in times of declared emergencies.

Background

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the Caribbean and Northeastern United States. The storm was categorized as the largest Atlantic Hurricane on record, and caused estimated damages of $74 billion. The damage to power and communications infrastructure was particularly severe, leading to disruption and unavailability of communications services. This included cellular and landline telephones, television, and broadband services for extended periods. According to the committee, lack of service threatened the delivery of public safety communications and emergency response services.[1]

According to the bill’s sponsor, “By enhancing the resiliency of the services that keep us connected when we need them most, my bill will use the lessons we learned from Sandy to make sure we are better prepared when the next storm hits.”[2]

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[1] See E&C Majority Memorandum April 26-27, 2016, Full Committee Markup, at 7.
[2] See Rep. Pallone’s Press Release “On Three-Year Anniversary of Sandy, Pallone Announces Legislation to Improve Communications Networks During Emergencies” October 29, 2015.

Cost

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is currently unavailable.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.