FCC commissioners yesterday voted to refine network-outage reports that must be filed to reflect the performance of legacy networks, in addition to exploring the idea that wireless carriers and commercial broadband providers with IP-based systems would be subject to similar requirements in the interest of public safety.

Fiber cuts during the past year in the Northeast U.S., California and Arizona have demonstrated society’s dependence on broadband Internet not only to communicate but to conduct business and execute public-safety missions, according to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

“Routine activities that require access to the Internet were impossible, and businesses lost untold access to customers,” Rosenworcel said during the meeting, noting the outage two weeks ago in the Northeast U.S. “But worse, public safety was affected, as an unknown number of customers were simply unable to dial 911.

“No matter where you live, when communication service shuts off, modern life grinds to a halt. This is not just an inconvenience. It’s a dangerous new vulnerability; it’s a problem. But we cannot manage problems that we do not measure. That is why our action here is so important. We refine our existing rules for outage reporting in order to ensure that the data we receive is both timely and accurate.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler echoed this sentiment, noting Rosenworcel’s examples of lost business and public-safety problems.

“That’s information we ought to know about,” Wheeler said. “That’s information that goes to the heart of Section 1, the first page of the [Communications] Act, that says we have a responsibility for national security and public safety such as the information that is transmitted or—in those instances that Commissioner Rosenworcel cited—were not transmitted, and that’s why we need to know this.”

Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly expressed support for the order but was outspoken in his criticism of the reporting proposals for IP-based systems included in the FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking. O’Rielly said he believe that the commission lacks the legal authority to take the proposed actions, calling the further notice a “power grab” and stating that, “from a statutory perspective, this represents quite an epic work of fiction.”