FCC to hold hearings on cellphone outages

The hearings will begin early next year and will take place in regions throughout the country that have been hit by natural disasters, beginning with New York, the FCC said.

They will include testimony from business representatives, public safety officials, engineering experts, consumers and other stakeholders.

“This unprecedented storm has revealed new challenges that will require a national dialogue around ideas and actions to ensure the resilience of communications networks," Genachowski said in a statement.

“I want to thank Senator Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJuan Williams: The politics of impeachment Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Dem rep: Trump disaster aid request is 'how you let America down again' MORE for his leadership, and welcome his call for the Commission to develop a roadmap for how to better protect critical communications functions during major disasters,” he added.

Debris, high winds and flooding damaged many cell towers, while others without a backup power source were disabled when electric grids failed.

The FCC adopted backup power requirements for cell towers in 2007 following Hurricane Katrina, but a federal appeals court ruled against the regulations in 2008, and the Office of Management and Budget blocked them later that year.

The FCC is currently exploring the possibility of deploying drones or balloons during an emergency to restore cellphone service. 

"Field hearings will increase our understanding of the problems encountered during Superstorm Sandy and harvest the best ideas to ensure that mobile phone service doesn't fail after future storms," Schumer said in a statement. "Mobile communication has become an essential part of our lives, and increasing its reliability must be a top priority."