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California requires landline operators to have 72 hours of backup power for disasters

in People

State regulators will require landline companies to ensure critical and vulnerable phone systems have 72 hours worth of backup power, a mandate imposed a little over a year after PG&E’s widespread, self-directed electricity shut-offs cut communications for hundreds of thousands of Californians.

The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday voted unanimously to adopt the new backup battery requirements within a year and a half. The decision, laid out in a 107-page document, is meant to shore up legacy copper-wire landline service as well as internet-based phone networks, both of which have been plagued by problems during PG&E’s planned outages tied to extreme fire risk.

Affected companies include phone giants AT&T and Comcast, which have argued that backup power requirements would be burdensome, costly and ineffective.

Marybel Batjer, the president of the commission, called the decision “very challenging” and acknowledged the views of affected service providers but emphasized that the commission’s paramount concern is public safety, particularly for communities at risk of being cut off during emergencies.

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