Another Disaster, Another Major Outage - Have We Had Enough?


Posted on: October 24, 2018 by Robert Clark

Natural disasters will occur and, unfortunately, legacy infrastructure will continue to be impacted. However, there is no reason for a total loss of service in this day and age when there are multiple paths to construct a robust network. Being single-threaded is simply not acceptable.

Catastrophic network failures can and will occur. We cannot let this continue to happen to our 911 systems. No carrier is immune to outages unless the network itself has physically and logically diverse paths from more than one source and to those areas who are progressively looking at uncoupling from tandem offices in lieu of constructing their own ESInet domains - you are taking the right steps.

Our nation's Big 3 (AT&T, Verizon and Sprint/T-Mobile) will be a huge part of our collective success in transforming to a mobile broadband world. Smart planning accounts for its own transformation efforts and recognizes that times have changed, and service delivery options have as well.  Last year, Florida was hit by a major storm that had the exact same impact: carriers were hammered for loss of service. Have we forgotten that, or does it take a big donation to make the issue disappear from the public eye? From Irma to Harvey, now Michael, the situation has only gotten worse. Dare we even ask how many lives were lost as a result of not being able to reach out for help?

We need to change our thinking if we assume that these problems are just going to fix themselves. The carriers we have all relied upon for service over the years have changed - it happened a long time ago, we just hear about the impact more frequently nowadays. They cut the cord and went to a wireless world, changing their business models to fit a 21st century marketplace. In the process, carriers are faced with challenges in transforming themselves, their operations, revenue mix and core competency focus. What was previously a "telephone company" is now a "media and content delivery service provider”. Along the way, however, they must make hard decisions, and while unfortunate for some, it affords choice for the market.

This is perhaps most prominent in the 911 space, as what was once a "telephone system" operation has truly become an IT services domain. In a complex network domain of the future relying on fixed assets is a recipe for disaster.

In Bay County, this is less of a Verizon problem than it is simply an infrastructure investment issue. One could easily argue that had this been in a large city or metro area, service restoration would have been much faster. Whereas AT&T FirstNet is serving the first responder community, if the public is unable to call for help, that network's availability is less valuable with each missed call.

If someone can't call for help, the response process is hampered so having reliable systems that serve the public are first and foremost.

Unfortunately, it takes tragedies to force awareness; let's hope that we don't continue to define insanity going forward as we modernize our nation's network services infrastructure. Combine this with recent downsizing announcements by Verizon, and one could only expect to see problems like this get worse before they get better.

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About Robert Clark

Vice President, NEXTGEN Solutions, Atos Public Safety
Rob Clark is a Global Public Safety and Security Migration Subject Matter Expert (SME) specializing in NG911/112 PSAP and ESInet solutions, incorporating Smart City ecosystem needs to provide a single “NGSmart” blueprint for infrastructure modernization strategies. As the Head of the NG9-1-1 GTM for North America, Rob leads the Atos Public Safety team and organizational pillars via strategic direction, solution alignment, partnerships, delivery models and total lifecycle sustainability models for Public Safety clients. Serving as the lead subject matter expert for all Atos Public Safety offerings, Rob represents the organization in North America and abroad to align core competencies with market demands, customer requirements and forward-focused innovation.

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