Cell Tower

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

A state Assembly committee has approved a bill that would require wireless telecommunications companies to provide backup power for cell towers so people can still use their cell phones during public safety power shutdowns.

The bill, SB 431, was approved by the Communications and Conveyance Committee on a 9-2-2 vote. It now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The bill would require 72 hours of backup power so that cell towers continue to function during power outages ordered by utilities to minimize fire risks during wildfire events.

During the power outages last October, nearly 2 million Northern California residents had their landline, cell phone and cable service interrupted. Over 800 cell towers across California did not have sufficient backup power. More than 454,000 cable and wireline subscribers were out of service due to the power shutoffs.

In July, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered California’s wireless companies to develop comprehensive resiliency plans to ensure necessary planning and network investments are made to maintain service to customers during a disaster or power outage. SB 431 would go further by directing the PUC to implement performance reliability standards for backup power systems.