California lawmakers target cellular companies for more support during PG&E shutoffs

Political Connection
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- For the first time ever, cellular companies such as Verizon and AT&T testified at the State Capitol.

The testimonies were in response to the massive service outages that happened during Pacific Gas and Electric's October power shutoffs.

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

California lawmakers put telecommunication companies on notice.

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

The Senate Energy and Utilities Communications Committee spent Tuesday 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.

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

California Office of Emergency Services 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, 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 who oversee the companies. Lawmakers left wondering how soon the California Public Utilities Commission would crack down on companies to make sure they improve.

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

The legislature this year will also consider a bill requiring cell companies to have backup power for at least 72 hours in high-risk fire areas. More polices could be proposed in the coming weeks.


Ashley Zavala filed this report.


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