Quirk Bill to Protect Communication During Catastrophic Events is Signed into Law

Wednesday, September 30, 2020
SACRAMENTO – A bill by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) that creates an expedited process for the installation of low-emission, emergency standby generators that will provide back-up power for telecommunication throughout our state during a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event, or a catastrophic emergency, has been signed into law by Governor Newsom. 
 
Last year, PSPS events interrupted commercial power to wireless infrastructure, resulting in the loss of access to communications services in some areas. “Enabling the rapid deployment of emergency standby generators at cell tower sites is vital for public safety and welfare to help ensure consumers maintain access to 911 services, wireless emergency alerts, and other public safety communications” explained Assemblymember Quirk.
 
“Having access to reliable telecommunications can be a matter of life or death to many living in California’s rural communities,” stated Paul A. Smith, Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC).  “With PSPS events, rolling black outs and catastrophic wildfires, maintaining reliable communication is imperative. AB 2421 represents cooperation between the telecommunication industry and rural county leaders to help safeguard critical access for residents to the communication network, even when the power is off.”
 
In 2019, PSPS events took place from October 9 to November 1 in about 30 counties in Northern California and several in Southern California and affected all three of the state’s largest power utilities –Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).  Over the course of the PSPS events, more than 3 million people lost power. These PSPS events disrupted power that is provided to cell tower sites. 
 
Some wireless carriers report some delays (from five to 30 months) in local jurisdictions that have required—as part of the permitting process for back-up generators—variances, substantial aesthetic structures, spec sheets and transmission details on existing equipment not affected by a generator application, and documents that the agency already has on file.
 
“AB 2421 is a critical component in supporting the efforts of wireless service providers to install emergency standby generators before catastrophic events threaten Californians’ ability to stay connected to emergency services when needed most,” said Assemblymember Quirk. “Without the short term, narrowly crafted process prescribed in this legislation, widely differing and lengthy permitting requirements across the state could delay these public safety efforts by many months. AB 2421 is focused on an immediate need of improving public safety through power-resilient wireless communications networks.”
 
AB 2421 goes into effect January 1, 2021.