U.S. GAO – Telecommunications: FCC Should Improve Monitoring of Industry Efforts to Strengthen Wireless Network Resiliency


Americans increasingly rely on mobile wireless communications for safety-related communications like calling 911 and receiving weather alerts. Mobile wireless networks face risks from physical incidents including extreme weather events and intentional and accidental damage. For example, in 2017 several major hurricanes damaged wireless network infrastructure, leaving many U.S. citizens without reliable access to wireless communications.

GAO was asked to review federal efforts to improve the resiliency of wireless networks following natural disasters and other physical incidents. This report examines: (1) trends in mobile wireless outages reported to FCC since 2009 and (2) actions federal agencies and industry have taken since 2013 (after Hurricane Sandy) to improve wireless network resiliency, among other objectives. GAO analyzed wireless outage data from 2009 to 2016 (4 years before and after Hurricane Sandy); reviewed FCC, DHS, and industry documents; and interviewed stakeholders who represented a variety