Washington, D.C. – The Rural Wireless Association supports the Report and Order recently released by the Federal Communications Commission that will mandate that all facilities-based mobile wireless providers comply with the Mandatory Disaster Response Initiative (MDRI). Importantly, the rules will require each facilities-based mobile wireless provider to enter into bilateral roaming agreements with other providers with which it may foreseeably request roaming privileges when the MDRI is active. RWA gladly welcomes this decision by the Commission to ensure that all Americans, including rural Americans, have access to emergency communications, such as web-based services, in the face of natural disasters when their respective carriers are unable to support their voice and data needs. RWA notes that 911 calls can be made without this requirement, but that 911 is not enough when outages are severe due to natural and manmade disasters, especially when the devastation flowing from such disasters last more than a few hours.
Rural carriers would like the FCC to build on this Report and Order to ensure that customers of nationwide and regional carriers have the ability to roam in areas that are served by rural carriers where the nationwide and regional carriers do not serve. This should not be limited to exigent circumstances or when the MDRI is active.
When Universal Service Fund monies are used to build out rural mobile networks, subscribers of all carriers should have access to those networks built with taxpayer dollars. Currently, nationwide carriers often block their respective subscribers from being able to access these rural networks to avoid paying roaming charges. This deprives their subscribers from being able to access rural networks that they helped build through the USF charges on their phone bills. It also means rural mobile carriers do not receive roaming revenue which could help lessen the need for universal service support.
RWA believes the Commission has taken a positive first step to close roaming inequities and looks forward to working with the Commission to develop a standardized reporting form on the implementation of the MDRI as noted in the FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.