Verizon Wireless response

Resilient networks are redundant networks

As climate change continues to increase the severity of weather events, fiber and other wireline infrastructure will face increased exposure to risk.  It is estimated that over 1,000 miles of long-haul fiber conduit and almost 2,500 miles of metro fiber conduit will be underwater by 2032.  Unfortunately, these trends are not improving.  Extreme heat waves and large storms are predicted to become more common.  Wireline infrastructure will continue to face vulnerabilities that are different than wireless options.

As I testified before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, loss of electrical power can create outages of telecommunications service for wired and wireless networks.  Telecommunications providers of both fiber and wireless broadband are equally and deeply committed to serving their customers’ needs in emergencies.  Yet, each is subject – in differing degrees – to the lack of a reliable electric grid.  Fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) networks face the more intractable problem of loss of power to the premise in addition to the network.  Most in-home fiber includes a battery backup that lasts 24 hours.  After those 24 hours, services including telephone and 9-1-1 services are lost.  Power is often lost in rural areas for weeks even in regularly occurring ice storms and even longer in the wake of disasters.

Restoring electrical service to all the homes in the wide areas often affected by these larger natural disasters is a lengthy process.  Wireless connectivity requires the difficult, but far less onerous, challenge of providing power only to the transmission site such as a tower to serve all the households in the service area regardless of if they have power on their premises. And consumers can often find alternative locations to re-charge their devices, including in their cars.

Wireless assets, such as cell on wheels (COWs), can be quickly rolled in to provide temporary network capacity—including backhaul when a fiber connection is lost— and restore connectivity.  This speed of response is simply not always possible in primarily wireline networks that must reach many affected premises.  Wireless networks also can be rerouted and optimized during and after a disaster.  If one cell site is offline, the network can use capacity from another site to maintain connectivity.

Wireless networks also have unparalleled self-healing capabilities that are being enhanced with 5G technology.  Fiber networks in rural areas, particularly aerial fiber that is damaged by storms, tend to take longer to restore.  Restoring one tower can quickly provide service to an entire area, versus having to repair numerous fiber breaks or entire areas of poles washed, burned, or blown away.  A resilient network is a redundant network.  Resiliency is a key factor state and local governments should consider in prioritizing funding for broadband buildout.