Lawmakers Propose Response to 911 Outages, Senate Bill 566 Requirements Come Amid Regulator Silence

March 08, 2017

Half Moon Bay Review
By Kaitlyn Bartley

State lawmakers have introduced legislation that may mitigate the effects of the Coastside Comcast and Verizon outages that occurred earlier this winter.

In February, state Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents California’s northern coast, introduced a bill that would require telecommunications service providers to notify the local Office of Emergency Services whenever there is a rural outage that affects 911 emergency telephone service. State Sen. Jerry Hill, who represents the coast and much of the Peninsula and Silicon Valley, co-authored the legislation.

This winter’s Coastside outages occurred when the fiber optic cable used by both Comcast and Verizon was cut, leaving residents without internet and cellphone service for hours. Many locals worried about a potentially disastrous outcome if they had been unable to dial 911 in an emergency. California currently does not specifically require telecommunications companies to report major service interruptions that affect the ability to dial 911.

Shortly after the Half Moon Bay area outages occurred, the California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Communications Commission confirmed to the Review that they were monitoring the situation. However, neither agency has responded to the Review’s subsequent requests for further information on that activity, including whether they have communicated any warnings to either company or plan to levy any fines.