California Members of Congress Issue Joint Statement on Wireless Carriers’ Unconscionable Challenge to CPUC’s 72-Hour Backup Power Safeguards

September 10, 2020
Press Release

PALO ALTO, CA – Today, 20 Members of Congress from the California Delegation issued a joint statement regarding the application for rehearing (Rulemaking 18-03-011) that was recently filed by wireless carriers at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

The statement below was issued by Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), John Garamendi (CA-03), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Judy Chu (CA-27), Mark Takano (CA-41), Katie Porter (CA-45), TJ Cox (CA-21), Jim Costa (CA-16), Ami Bera (CA-07), and Josh Harder (CA-10).

An advocate for strengthened infrastructure during wildfires, Rep. Eshoo introduced H.R. 3836, the WIRED Act, on July 18, 2019, to protect the ability of states to require wireless companies to deploy infrastructure that will be resilient enough to support all cell phone networks during disasters. On March 25, 2020, Rep. Eshoo led 12 California members in writing to the CPUC in support of the agency’s wireless resiliency ruling when it was a proposal.

“We are outraged that wireless carriers are arguing against safeguards that will protect Californians during wildfire season and that they are doing so as devastating wildfires burn across our state. Critical wireless networks need to be able to operate even when fires shut down power service, and that is why the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) 72-hour backup power safeguards will save lives.

Over the last several weeks, more than 700 wildfires have been burning throughout California, including the second and third largest in our state’s history. This year’s wildfires have already killed more Californians and wrought more destruction than last year’s fires, and we have not even hit the time of year when our state typically experiences the most deadly and devastating fires. Experts predict that what has happened thus far could be indicative of an even more severe wildfire season this fall.

To say that connectivity is critical during wildfires is an understatement. Access to wireless communications is how our constituents can be woken up by emergency alerts in the middle of the night to know they need to evacuate as wind gusts propel wildfires in the direction of their homes. It is how they can navigate through evacuation routes and road closures. It is how our constituents can call 9-1-1 for help. It is how someone can call their elderly grandparent to check on whether they have been able to evacuate. It can mean the difference between life or death.

We are appalled that at the very same time as these wildfires blazed throughout our state, wireless carriers filed an application to challenge protections adopted by the CPUC for cell towers to have a minimum of 72 hours of backup power. These safeguards were put in place to help Californians stay connected during wildfires and other emergencies. Challenging them is irresponsible and in doing so the carriers are turning their backs on Californians. At a time when nearly every part of our state has been ravaged by wildfires, we would hope that there is swift action to implement these lifesaving protections, not fight against them.”

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