Sen. Cantwell’s Bill Aims to Improve Communications Networks in Wake of Disasters

By:  The Chronicle Staff
Source: The Lewis County Chronicle

A bipartisan bill to help communities speedily restore communication networks in emergencies has passed out of the United States Senate unanimously. 

The bill, “Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act,” led by Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, would lead to quicker and cheaper repairs of communication systems, according to a press release from the senator’s office.

“Phone service, broadband, and TV access are critical to saving lives and protecting property when disaster strikes,” Cantwell said in the release. “As extreme weather events like wildfires and hurricanes become more severe, communities across our country will rely more on these communications systems. The SANDy Act paves the way for communities to restore communications and respond more quickly, regardless of what Mother Nature throws at them.”

The legislation could help communities in Washington state respond to wildfires in the central and western regions as well as earthquakes and tsunamis in the coastal communities, according to the release. 

Cantwell’s bill will now go to a conference committee between the House and Senate. Congressman Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, introduced a companion bill in the House that passed earlier this year with bipartisan support.

The SANDy Act would give FEMA authority to reimburse states for costs associated with supporting the repair and restoration of communications services. It would also modernize and expand the list of service providers that can gain access to disaster sites so they can make repairs to the infrastructure, urge compliance to the voluntary framework wireless carriers entered into last month to share resources while working together to restore services, and it would direct the Government Accountability Office to study how to create and maintain a directory of contacts for personnel with communications services providers to speed up restoration of lost communication services in an area.