7. Issue 3: Backup Power on the
Telecommunications Network

7.1. FAR Analysis

This issue considers the backup power on the service provider's25 network, which covers both (1) the main switching centers (wireline central offices, wireless switching centers, and cable headends), and (2) outside plant (OSP) facilities not housed in the central office.26 OSP facilities include all the facilities between the central office and the customer premises. OSP remote terminals are powered from the electric utility grid.

Batteries have been traditionally used as the backup power source for OSP remote terminals supplying up to eight hours of backup power. With increasing demands for connectivity and higher service expectations, the required amount of backup power for OSP remote terminals has increased over the last decade. Deployment of higher capacity battery systems has increased to meet this increased backup power need. The wide range of climates and locales for OSP remote terminals place environmental, thermal, and pollution stresses on the equipment, including the batteries. More recently new types of batteries have been introduced as backup power sources with higher capacities.

Various industry guidelines generally require a minimum of four hours, with a design objective of eight hours, of backup power at remote terminals. The design objective is usually cited as eight hours at a fixed call rate with consideration given to the time necessary to install additional backup power or other measures to keep the terminals operational.

Most cable and wireless systems use similar design guidelines and batteries for providing power backup. Currently, there is greater variability in the amount of backup power at wireless sites and the need for backup power is reduced because their architecture may allow for re-configuration of the coverage zone for a specific cell site to reduce outage impact.

The FAR finds that most service providers have at least four hours of backup power with larger providers having greater than eight hours of backup power at over 90% of their remote locations. The FAR reaches the following general conclusions:

· A minimum reserve of at least four hours of battery backup power is standard for remote terminals.

· Most remote terminals of wireline providers are designed to have eight hours of backup power.

· Most wireless remote terminals have emergency power backup, with 80% having four or more hours of backup power.

The FAR notes that some smaller providers rely on the incumbent provider's network as their backup plan for the service they offer, while medium sized wireless companies design for a minimum of four hours of backup power with some having more.

The FAR finds that industry standards for battery backup power for remote terminals provide for a minimum of three to four hours with a design objective of 8 hours. The FAR states that the current backup capacity and design criteria used for remote terminal and central office facilities have proven successful in providing emergency communications in more than 95% of power outages.

The FAR states that providing additional backup power at central offices by increasing fuel supplies for the backup generators would require larger fuel tanks with commensurate environmental safeguards and hazard reduction protocols. The additional costs of such increased fuel capacity are far greater than the alternate approach of having an efficient fuel delivery schedule and contingency plans in case of an emergency. Similarly, the cost of permanently adding battery capacity at a remote terminal is higher than having a contingency plan for delivery of new batteries or portable generators.

7.2. FCC Backup Power Rule

In January 2006, the FCC established the Katrina Panel to review the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the telecommunications infrastructure in the affected area and make recommendations on ways to improve disaster preparedness, network reliability and communications among first responders (police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, etc.). The Katrina Panel released its report on June 12, 2006. On June 19, 2006, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking inviting comments on what actions it should take regarding the Katrina Panel's recommendations. On July 26, 2006, the FCC issued a public notice asking those providing comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address the applicability of the recommendations to all types of natural and man-made disasters and whether the panel's recommendations are broad enough to take into account other geographic regions, the susceptibility of various regions to particular types of disasters and the communications capabilities of the regions.

On June 8, 2007, the FCC released the Katrina Panel Order directing its Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to implement several of the panel's recommendations. As a result, the FCC adopted, in Order 07-177, a backup power rule. (See In the Matter of Recommendations of the Independent Panel Reviewing the Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Communications Networks (EB Docket No. 06-119) (2007) 22 FCC Rcd. 10541, as modified by In the Matter of Recommendations of the Independent Panel Reviewing the Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Communications Networks, Order on Reconsideration, released October 4, 2007 (22 FCC Rcd. 18013).)

The backup power rule requires local exchange carriers (LECs), including incumbent local exchange carriers and competitive local exchange carriers, and CMRS providers to have emergency backup power for all assets normally powered by the serving electric utility. The assets include central offices, cell sites, remote switches and digital loop carrier system remote terminals. LECs and CMRS providers are required to have 24 hours of emergency backup power for central offices and eight hours for cell sites, remote switches and digital loop carrier system remote terminals. Class B LECs and non-nationwide CMRS providers serving no more than 500,000 customers are exempt.27 Additionally, compliance is not required where compliance is precluded by federal, state, tribal or local law or legal obligation, or where there is a safety or health risk.

On February 28, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted a motion to stay the FCC's rule, pending court review. (CTIA v. FCC, Case No. 07-1475, consolidated with 07-1477, 07-1480, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 4942.) Thus, the rules are not yet in effect and may be modified.

7.3. FAR Options/Recommendations

The FAR suggests that industry design standards are useful for emergency planning:

· 24 hours of fuel storage at the central office facilities with contingency plans for rapid resupply of fuel as needed, and

· Four hours (minimum) of backup power at remote terminals with an objective of eight hours at critical sites.

There may be mitigating circumstances that prevent achieving these design objectives. Regulatory compliance conflicts can easily arise with Federal Environmental Protection Agency rules, local fire codes, hazardous materials loadings and building safety rules. Many remote terminals may be located in restricted rights-of-way, have prohibitions in lease agreements, have limited floor loadings on roof tops, or have other restrictions that limit the addition of heavy batteries with toxic compounds to the site. In addition, a wireless service provider may have flexibility at cell sites that allows boosting the power of adjacent sites to enhance the coverage area, or have roaming agreements with other carriers. For a cable or wireline service provider, acceptable contingency plans may entail rapid response repair crews that can be dispatched for restoration of service, or some other emergency response plan to re-route traffic and maintain service.

The FAR recommends that any such mitigating circumstances be documented by the service provider, including a demonstration that an emergency plan is in place. The FAR also recommends providing flexibility to service providers to allow for software engineering and network re-configuration as a response to an emergency.

7.4. Discussion

The intent of § 2892.1 was to determine the need for backup power systems not located on the customer's premises and performance criteria for such systems. Service providers have recognized the need for backup power and installed such systems. The FAR found that most service providers have backup power for 24 hours at central office facilities and four to eight hours at remote terminals.

Since this section was signed into law, the FCC has issued an order that requires LECs and CMRS providers to have 24 hours of emergency backup power for central offices and eight hours for cell sites, remote switches and digital loop carrier system remote terminals. The order provides exemptions for smaller providers. We have no reason to believe that the stated federal requirement is unreasonable. However, it is not yet in effect and is on appeal.

The Legislature showed foresight in passing this legislation because progress was not being made at the federal level. However, that is no longer the case. Since the FCC has developed national requirements, we find it best for California to actively participate in the further development and implementation of them. When such requirements are established, California will be in a much better position to determine whether additional standards are needed, including whether smaller providers should be exempt. Additionally, only the incremental costs of the California standards as compared to the federal requirements would need to be addressed because the costs of implementing federal requirements will be a cost of doing business for service providers. We expect CD to monitor the development and implementation of the federal requirements and keep the Commission and the Legislature apprised of significant developments.

25 In this case, "service provider" refers to all providers of two-way voice services and does not exclude traditional wireline or wireless service providers.

26 When used in connection with facilities not on the customer's premises, the amount of backup power refers to power needed to continue operating the telecommunications network, including ongoing use by customers.

27 Class B companies are those companies having revenues from regulated telecommunications operations that are less than an indexed revenue threshold. The 2006 threshold was $134 million.

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