In the wake of devastating back-to-back hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Sen. Chuck Schumer called on Congress Sunday to pass legislation that would ensure strong communication during emergencies.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged Washington to pass the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act (SANDy) which would give people more consistent access to mobile networks and speed repairs to downed cell towers. The bill references superstorm Sandy, which left parts of New York City without cell service for days, causing headaches for first responders and families alike.
“This is the anguish of not being able to reach family and friends,” Schumer said. “This is really crucial and needs to get done.”
The bill would provide 911 services to Wi-Fi hot spots to ensure first responders and displaced residents could communicate during an emergency. Schumer said service providers are not opposed to the bill, which would also ensure that in disaster situations all phones will work on any carrier’s tower.
“Right now, if you’re on Verizon and a cell tower goes on you might be able to get on AT&T but there is no guarantee,” Schumer said.
The legislation would also require phone, TV and internet companies to fix outages faster, and would ensure FEMA’s involvement with those efforts.
A version of the bill passed the House years ago but was rejected by the Senate, according to Schumer. He believes there will be bipartisan support for the bill now, in light of recent natural disasters in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean.