News Releases
news coverage
News Media
PFF Highlights
News Release
December 18, 2003
CONTACT: David Fish
(202) 289-8928

Do Feds Risk a Communications Blackout?
Report Urges Redundant Telecom Systems for Key Gov't Offices

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Are communications systems at key federal agencies vulnerable to disruption during national emergencies such as September 11 or the recent northeastern electricity blackout? Fearing that may be the case, a national think tank has issued a report calling for a policy to require duplicate transmission facilities where the most important government offices are housed, as well as diverse routing of communications infrastructure.

In “Preventing a Communications Blackout: The Need for Telecom Redundancy” Progress & Freedom Foundation Senior Fellow and Director of Communications Policy Studies Randolph J. May says “if it is not already in place, a targeted policy should be adopted requiring the federal government to focus in a systematic way on the need for truly redundant communications facilities at buildings and installations where federal agencies are housed.” Moreover, May writes, “it appears more still needs to be done in the way of achieving redundancy through diverse routing to protect our communications infrastructure.”

May stipulates basic requirements for alternate facilities to be “truly redundant”: communications facility entry and exit points to a building must be “physically separate, by a significant distance, from the facilities of the incumbent provider”; there should be separate rights-of-way between the building and routing center; and alternate services should “utilize a physically separate switching or routing center.” He says the new policy should be implemented by the Department of Homeland Security or the General Services Administration through a regulation, bulletin or guideline.

“Many federal agency buildings and installation locations apparently do not currently have true telecommunications network redundancy installed in their buildings,” May writes. “Served by a single connection running through a single outside communications central office or switching hub, many are too vulnerable.” He cites a February 2003 white paper by the Bush Administration and a May 2002 government report that call for communications redundancy, and a new Markle Foundation report – “Creating a Trusted Network for Homeland Security” – that argues more can be done to assure redundancy.

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the impact of the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1993.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation