Why are FCC outage reports treated as confidential?
sean at donelan.com
Wed Feb 24 22:36:48 UTC 2021
FCC is proposing a change to who can have access to FCC outage reports.
But first a little history....
After the 1990 AT&T Long Distance switching network collapse, there were
lots of investigations. The January 15th outage was the biggest, there
were a few more smaller crashes in 1990 and 1991.
The Network Reliability Council at was first organized by the FCC in
January of 1992 following a series of major service outages in various
local exchange and interexchange wireline telephone networks.
In 1992, the FCC established mandatory network outage reporting
requirements for telephone carriers. Originally, outage reports were
public documents, although you needed to visit the FCC offices in
Washington DC to view them in person. Eventually, the FCC posted
the outage reports online during the early days of the Internet.
Originally, outage reports were presumed public, unless specifically
determined to be confidential. I recall an outage report about a
circuit serving Area 51 which disappared after it was filed.
In 2004, the FCC decided “[t]he disclosure of outage reporting
information to the public could present an unacceptable risk of more
effective terrorist activity". Actually what happened, one carrier
started using FCC outage reports in its advertising claims that it was
"more reliable" than other carriers because it reported fewer outages to
the FCC. The other carriers got upset and complained to the FCC.
Instead of telling the one carrier to stop using the outage reports in
its advertisements, the FCC made all the outage reports confidential.
After the decision to make outage reports presumptively confidential,
in addition to the public, other state, local and federal agencies
no longer had access to them.
Although FCC still won't make the outage reports public, its creating a
complicated process for selective parties to have access to the outage
Amendments to Part 4 of the Commission’s Rules Concerning Disruptions to
Communications: Second Report and Order - PS Docket No. 15-80
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