Telecom mergers could aid disaster recovery

The recent mergers of major telecommunications firms could improve states’ ability to respond to disasters, according to a new report from Zeichner Risk Analytics, a Virginia-based homeland security consulting firm.

The merger of SBC and AT&T recently closed, while Verizon and MCI are still seeking the approval of a few more state regulators and predicting completion in a few weeks. As states consider the mergers’ ramifications, including diminished competition, they should also think about the improvements in service delivery and network reliability that the merging of companies will bring, said Lee Zeichner, president of the firm.

In a study released Nov. 17, the firm reports that the proliferation of communications companies in the past two decades has led to increased options for government and private-sector consumers of the services, but it also means there is no comprehensive communications infrastructure map to guide disaster planning and response.

Zeichner, a former senior counsel to the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, said "a certain amount of consolidation" is a critical aspect of ensuring the communications systems still work in the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster.

"At a minimum, both mergers will improve coordination prior to, during and after a disaster," he wrote in a summary of the report.

Although only six states remain undecided about the Verizon/MCI merger, Ben Stafford, the firm's sector coordinator, said the results of the study are still relevant. The study was one of several the firm conducts on critical infrastructure sectors, he said.

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