Cellular companies testify on service outages in PG&E power shutoffs


SACRAMENTO (KRON) – For the first time ever, cellular companies such as Verizon and AT&T testified at the State Capitol.

This is in response to massive service outages in October’s power shutoffs. 

“They’ve gotta step up to the plate, they’ve gotta start giving us in the information, they have to quit playing defense,” Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, said. 

California lawmakers putting telecommunications companies on notice.

“I need to be able to communicate with my constituents when there’s a fire!” Senator Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, said.

The Senate Energy Utilities and Communications Committee spent Wednesday analyzing cellular outages in October’s power shutoffs. 

While millions were left in the dark, more than a million were also left without cell service. 

Representatives from companies like Verizon and AT&T promised to make improvements.

“We are prepared to dramatically increase capital investment to transform our network to respond to this new normal of massive power shutoffs,” Jeff Luong, with AT&T, said. 

CalOES Director Mark Ghilarducci gave lawmakers a laundry list of issues that came up in October’s service outages, including a lack of transparency with data and a lack of cell site protection and backup power for equipment.

“Time is of the essence. Collaboratively we can work to achieve what is necessary,” Ghilarducci said. 

Senators also spent part of the hearing grilling state regulators which oversee the companies. 

Lawmakers left wondering how soon the California Public Utilities Commission will crack down on companies to make sure they improve.

“I don’t have the confidence the industry is going to move without a mandate,” Senator Mike McGuire, D- Healdsburg, said. 

The legislature this year will consider a bill requiring cell companies to have backup power for at least 72-hours in high-risk fire areas.

More policies could be proposed in the coming weeks.

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