Priority International Communications

Policy Report | October 10, 2012

During recent tragedies like Japan’s tsunami and nuclear meltdown in 2011, the London bombings in 2005, and the 2008 Mumbai and 9/11 terrorist attacks, some critical communications failed to make it through congested networks. According to a report released today by the EastWest Institute, Priority International Communications (PIC) capability is needed to help prevent the loss of lives and property in such crisis situations.

Based on inputs from leading telecommunications industry experts, the report sets forth straightforward steps needed to set up an international capability for both government officials and private sector leaders. As emerging networks’ technologies and services continue to demand greater and greater bandwidth, these congestion scenarios will likely occur more frequently.
“Surprisingly, only a few countries have national priority-communications capability in place,” said EWI Chief Technology Officer Karl Rauscher, a co-author of the report. “There is no international system for giving important calls priority. This is a missed opportunity, particularly as standards-based technical solutions have existed for the past decade.”
The report presents four immediately-actionable recommendations that, if implemented, would allow government-authorized users to communicate even when networks are jammed. These authorized users include public or private sector individuals with critical roles in times of crises. They are critical infrastructure operators (communications, energy, financial services and transportations); public safety officials (healthcare, local government, emergency management) and individuals with national security responsibilities.
Stuart Goldman, co-author of the PIC report, stressed that both the private and public sectors must champion the need for functional international communications in emergencies. “A PIC capability could make the crucial difference between whether or not life-sustaining functions are operating during a major crisis, when public networks are most congested,” he said.
The release of the report coincides with the convening of the Third Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit in New Delhi on October 30-31, where leading experts will discuss these and other key recommendations. The study is based on consultations that have occurred during and after two previous Worldwide Cybersecurity Summits—the first took place in Dallas in 2010, and the second in London in 2011.