Bill would require backup power for some cell towers


When Pacific Gas & Electric turned the power off last October, more than half of the cell towers in Marin went out of service. In response, the Board of Supervisors last month endorsed a state bill that would mandate telecommunication providers have backup power for their cell towers in high fire-threat areas. Introduced by State Senator Mike McGuire last year, Senate Bill 431 would require the California Public Utilities Commission to develop performance standards for backup power, including a minimum operating life of 72 hours and a means to warn customers when the backup system is low. Cell service interruptions affected more than 2 million residents across Northern California during the planned outages last fall, and Marin was hit particularly hard. According to a Federal Communications Commission disaster report, Marin lost power at 160 of its 280 cell towers. “When these vital communication services are interrupted during an emergency, it affects 911 service and the ability for all public safety entities to send crucial emergency alerts that keep people informed,” Supervisor Katie Race wrote in a letter to Assemblyman Miguel Santiago. He chairs the assembly committee on communications and conveyance, where the bill is being discussed before it can reach the assembly floor.