As promised in its national broadband plan, the FCC yesterday launched an inquiry regarding the ability of existing broadband networks to withstand damage or severe network usage as a result of natural and man-made disasters.

In the notice of inquiry, the commission is seeking comments on major single points of failure in broadband architectures, particularly on the edge of networks, such as cell sites for wireless communications. The inquiry also seeks information about network management practices to handle capacity overloads during emergencies.

“This is a vitally important step in ensuring, first, that the commission has all the facts and data it needs with respect to the survivability of our broadband communications networks, and second, that the commission quickly take all necessary actions to ensure ongoing broadband communications in times of disaster or crisis,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a prepared statement.

The survivability and reliability of commercial networks has been a point of concern for public-safety and critical-infrastructure entities that would like to leverage the robust functionality of commercial broadband offerings. Commercial broadband reliability has become an even more important issue under the FCC’s public-safety broadband plan, which calls for first responders to roam on commercial wireless networks when the proposed nationwide, 700 MHz public-safety broadband network reaches capacity or is otherwise unavailable.

“[The inquiry is] primarily looking at existing infrastructure and how you can better protect that, but it also will give us a better idea of how to move forward when the new broadband networks are being built out,” FCC spokesman Robert Kenny said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “So we expect to find that this proceeding will be helpful in the buildout of new networks, as well.”

Separately, the FCC also launched an inquiry about a proposed cybersecurity certification program for all communications providers.