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Cell carriers battle FCC over backup rule

updated 05:30 pm EST, Fri March 7, 2008

Cell carriers vs. FCC

Cellular carriers are working hard to combat a new FCC regulation that would force all cellphone service providers with half a million subscribers or more to install 8-hour backup systems at almost every cell transmitter site across the U.S. The rule, which the FCC drafted after Hurricane Katrina knocked out hundreds of cell towers and sites along the Gulf Coast in 2005, is designed to strengthen the nation's communication system to help save lives during future disasters. Wireless carriers argue that the regulation was illegally drafted and that it would impose a huge economic and bureaucratic burden, according to the Associated Press.

A federal appeals court in the state of Washington D.C. placed a hold on the FCC's regulations while it considers an appeal by major wireless carriers. With nearly 210,000 towers and roof-mounted cellular cites -- some of which would require modification to comply with the new rule -- across the U.S., some service providers are fiercely debating the necessity of the new regulations. One industry estimate places the cost of performing necessary changes at up to $15,000 per site.

Sprint Nextel said the rule would cause it "staggering and irreparable harm," and that the cost could not be made up through legal action or passed on to consumers.

The FCC is refusing to budge, however, and cited a panel of experts appointed by the agency who recalled the "long and slow process" of service restoration which followed Hurricane Katrina three years ago.

"We find that the benefits of ensuring sufficient emergency backup power, especially in times of crisis involving possible loss of life or injury, outweighs the fact that carriers may have to spend resources, perhaps even significant resources, to comply with the rule," the FCC wrote in a regulatory filing. "The need for backup power in the event of emergencies has been made abundantly clear by recent events, and the cost of failing to have such power may be measured in lives lost."

Oral arguments or scheduled for May, according to the report.

by MacNN Staff



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