FCC Should Improve Monitoring of Industry Efforts to Strengthen Wireless Network Resiliency
What GAO Found
The number of wireless outages attributed to a physical incident—a natural disaster, accident, or other manmade event, such as vandalism—increased from 2009 to 2016, as reported to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). During this time, the number of outages substantially increased from 189 to 1,079 outages, with most of the increase occurring from 2009 to 2011. FCC officials said this increase was due in part to growth in wireless customers and wireless infrastructure. Almost all outages attributed to a physical incident were due to an accident, such as damage to a cable due to a digging error (74 percent) or a natural disaster (25 percent). However, outages due to a natural disaster had a longer median duration (ranging from 19 to 36 hours), which was more than twice as long as outages caused by an accident. Power failures and failures in other providers' networks also play a role in wireless outages attributed to physical incidents. For instance, carriers reported that 87 percent of wireless outages attributed to a physical incident were due to a failure in another provider's network on which they rely.