FCC Will Rework Cell-tower Rule

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will revise a proposed rule mandating backup power for cellular networks after it was rejected by the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

The rule, proposed in 2007, would have required mobile operators to certify they could keep all their base stations running on backup power for at least eight hours after a natural disaster or other event. It was prompted by the findings of a panel that found power outages were a factor in the lack of communication after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But the mobile industry, led by the CTIA trade group, said the rule would be onerous and unnecessary, and sued to stop it. The FCC later exempted some base stations, but that didn't satisfy the carriers.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which oversees all federal regulations, rejected the proposal because it said the FCC had not solicited public comments on it. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was holding off on a ruling until the OMB's decision.

The FCC could have overruled the OMB's decision, though the court might still have shot down the requirement. Instead, the agency chose to revise the proposal. It has not detailed when the modified plan may be released or to what kind of review it will be subjected.

Carriers have argued against specific provisions for keeping service available after disasters, saying they should have more flexibility. Carriers deployed mobile base stations to some areas hit by Katrina.

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