FCC creates Homeland Security Policy Council

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced Wednesday the creation of a council to craft contingency plans addressing a possible attack against the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure and to plan for maintaining essential communications during emergencies.

The council was formed to help the FCC evaluate and strengthen measures for protecting U.S. communications services, to assist in the rapid restoration of communications services and facilities that may be disrupted by either direct or threatened attack against the United States and to make certain that effective communications are available as needed to public safety, health and other emergency and defense workers.

The Homeland Security Policy Council will be composed of senior staff from each of the FCC’s bureaus, according to a release.

The events of Sept. 11 have made government agencies take a close look at their operations in the light of the dangers at hand, and the FCC is no exception, said Scott Marcus, special advisor to the FCC chairman for Internet technology and a member of the council, in an interview.

“The world is changing, and I think we will be changing too, but I’m not sure how yet,” he said. He expects the FCC to work closely with the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council, a semi-independent policy group, on matters of domestic telecommunications security.

The FCC traditionally defers to the executive branch in matters of national security or law enforcement, to permit better interdepartmental coordination, said Stewart Baker, former general counsel for the U.S. National Security Agency and head of the technology practice at Steptoe & Johnson LLP law firm.

“I’m guessing that what we’ll see is a way to make sure that FCC resources are used in an effective way in security issues,” he said. The telecommunications network is more secure than many other networks that are used today, he added. “I would not say we have a crisis in security in telecommunications, but undoubtedly there are issues that need to be resolved.”

Among them are questions about discovering and eliminating single points of failure along the telecommunication system, and prioritizing emergency traffic along networks, he said.

The FCC can be found on the Web at http://www.fcc.gov/.