FCC makes subsea cable outage reports mandatory

27 June 2016 | Jason McGee-Abe

The FCC has adopted rules to promote reliable subsea cable communications infrastructure with submarine cable licensees now required to report major outages on 60 US-connected cables that provide voice, data and internet service connectivity.

FCC logoTom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, said that communications providers already report outages to the FCC through its mandatory Network Outage Reporting System (NORS), however, the information it receives regarding undersea cable disruptions is “too limited and inconsistent to be useful” as a result of the current voluntary reporting system.

“It’s also ad hoc with no standardised guidelines, which means the information we receive is inconsistent and not necessarily revelatory about the root causes of problems,” Wheeler added.

The rules require submarine cable licensees to report major outages to NORS. Other communications providers – including wireline, wireless, and satellite – already report outages to NORS. This has allowed the FCC to analyse outage trends, spot systemic issues, and work with providers to develop solutions to make communications more resilient and reliable. 

Submarine cables are vital to US’s economic and national security, the FCC said in a statement, and the new outage reporting rules will enable the FCC to monitor the operational status of submarine cables and assist the agency in ensuring the reliability of this communications infrastructure.

In the report and order adopted on Friday, the FCC also noted that its International Bureau, in coordination with its public safety and homeland security bureau, is developing and improving inter-agency coordination processes to facilitate rapid deployment and maintenance of undersea cables.

“While it’s our responsibility to promote the resiliency and reliability of our communications networks, when it comes to a key piece of those networks – submarine cables -- we have unacceptable gaps in understanding of outages and disruptions,” Wheeler stated. The new order aims to fix this.