Sample Communications Paper on Critical Infrastructure

Part 1

Structure and Function of the Sector
The communication sector is an interconnected, diverse, and competitive industry that
uses satellite, cable, wireline, wireless, and broadcast infrastructure. Since the sector impacts all
business segments, the government, and public safety organizations, it collaborates with the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify its areas of vulnerabilities and develop the
relevant countermeasures. Theoretically, the communication sector facilitates operations in other
critical infrastructures, and owners, suppliers, and operators in the industry invest heavily in
networked architecture, disaster recovery concepts, and plans of business continuity. For
decades, the interconnectedness and interdependence of networked services have facilitated the
sharing of information and recovery options. This cooperation has been strengthened in
modernity due to the advancement of technology and the knowledge that the failure of one
support system could derail operations in the entire network.
Wireless infrastructure. They comprise high-frequency radios, private radio
connections, paging, unlicensed licenses, cellular phones, and personalized communication
services. Mobile services are the most popular wireless infrastructure— they are used in
businesses and governments for the provision of public safety and satisfaction of consumer
needs. According to Sarkar, Pick, and Moss (2017), two-thirds of the US population use mobile
devices, and most of them are located in metropolitan areas. Cellular wireless infrastructure is an
automatic and high-capacity system that is designed to efficiently serve one or more base stations
with radio communication services. The users of this technology can be widely spaced; hence the
service works through the division of geographical areas into cells and assignment of similar

channels to non-adjacent cells. This distribution facilitates the recycling of channels and
maximizes spectrum efficiency. Cellular networks are made of several elements that link Base
Switching Controllers (BSC) cell sites and Mobile Switching Centers (MSC).
Wireline infrastructure. They comprise of Public Switched Telephone Network
(PSTN) and enterprise networks. PSTN is accessed through data arrangements, Private Branch
Exchange (PBX) trunks, and telephone systems. In this technology, signals between the caller
and the receiver are transferred in the form of multi-frequency tones or dials via network signals.
The connection is facilitated by approximately two (2) billion miles of copper and fiber cables,
staff, and IT systems that move data (Schaffer, Keil, & Mayer, 2010). Wireline infrastructure is
further divided into Local Exchange Carriers (LECs) and Interexchange Carriers (IXCs). LEC
companies deal with intra-LATAs (Local Access and Transport Areas) and local toll services
while IXCs deal with long-range services. Among the elements transmitted by wireline
networks are transmission links, local exchange, and interexchange switching. Signaling System
Number 7 (SS7) is a medium-sized network protocol that overlays circuits and controls the
PSTN. Next-Generation Networks (NGNs) are high-speed packet-switched networks that route
and transport services like multimedia, video, voice or data across platforms. Submarine cable
connections are long-hauled in terms of interface and are used in large water bodies.
Satellite infrastructure. These infrastructures deliver data, video, and voice services in
independent and private terrestrial networks. They can, at times, use shared facilities like
teleports that use terrestrial services. According to Schaffer et al. (2010), there are five forms of
satellite services – on the move, fixed, handheld, transportable, and broadcast. For instance, to
deliver a message to a receiver within the same nation as the sender, only one satellite in the
earth orbit is required. In contrast, delivery to global destinations requires three satellites. The

technology thus facilitates two-way and multicast communication through distribution. The
most critical components of satellite networks are command links, telemetry, and tracks.
Cable infrastructure. In the US, the cable industry has about 7,791 systems that are
owned by Multiple-System Operators (MSOs) (Schaffer et al., 2010). The services provided are
digital and analog video programs, high-speed internet, and digital telephone network.
Customers of cable systems often request for multi-directional signal paths that are installed
using coaxial and fiber cables. This mixture is preferred as it increases signal strength,
bandwidth, and reliability. It is also easy to maintain as it focuses on multiplying distribution
hubs and fiber nodes.
Broadcasting infrastructure. Broadcasting services are the most widely used means of
public communication. This is because they are more redundant, pervasive, and cheap for the
end consumer. In the United States, there are over 1,700 television and 14,000 radio broadcasting
facilities (Schaffer et al., 2010). Broadcasting infrastructure is composed of transmitters, studios,
and Studio-Transmitter Links (STLs). Broadcasts make the systems more efficient by creating
multi-level redundancy points for each of the components. The studios, for instance, have
primary and backup facilities; STLs are independent and multiple, while towers, transmitters,
and antennas are either auxiliary or primary. Broadcasting systems have different frequencies,
including ultra-high frequency (UHF), very high frequency (VHF), medium frequency (MF), and
digital televisions (DTVs), which can air multiple programs.
Policies that Direct and Guide the Sector
The communication sector is guided by two central policies. The first was enacted in
1984 after a decree that mandated AT&T (a multinational holding company) to cede control of
the bell operating companies, which, at the time, had a monopoly over telephone services in the

US and Canada markets. This policy effectively ended the bell system's monopoly in the
telecommunication industry and allowed new entrants into the sector. Regional Bell Operating
Companies (RBOCs) began supplying communication infrastructure to locals while AT&T dealt
with international markets. The other policy is derived from the 1996 Telecommunications Act
that was aimed at creating a national policy that accelerated delivery of information technologies
and communication services to all Americans (Schaffer et al., 2010). Today, this provision
makes it possible for multiple wireless and wireline companies using satellites or cellular to offer
communication services. It also safeguards the communication network by allowing several
entities to control the industry.
The communication industry grew significantly in the 1990s following the then economic
boom. Fiber optics were introduced at the time, and the substantial investments made in the
facilities enabled the companies in the industry to deliver innovative internet services to
businesses and homes. The investment also aided in the modernization of communication
infrastructures. However, in 2000, the American economy took a downturn, leading to low
demands, high supplies, and a decline in the prices of communication services (Schaffer et al.,
2010). Furthermore, the economic downturn led to job cuts, low spending rates, and files for
bankruptcy by newcomers and big players in telecommunication segments. For a long time,
PSTN and narrowband were the most used public networks, but constant research and
development have led to the introduction of NGNs and wide-bands. Therefore, the
communication sector is not only sophisticated but also diverse in intra-sector and technology
In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allowed the Federal
Communication Commission (FCC) to develop a broadband plan for the entire country. The

argument given in support of this plan was that the project could serve the needs of several
stakeholders, including the DHS and public safety departments. To achieve this, the FCC was
tasked with exploring how broadband innovations, technologies, and tools could offer priority
services, emergency warnings, and 911 emergency services while concurrently solving
cybercrimes. If successful, the research will eradicate issues of hacks, identity theft, exposure of
secrets, and interruption of signals by third parties.
Regulatory Instruments that Determine the Standards and Procedures
The 1996 telecommunication Act recognizes the FCC as the federal regulator in the
communication sector. The FCC ensures that all wire and regulation communications serve
public interests by safeguarding their properties, lives, and national defenses. They execute this
task by using regulatory instruments such as legislation, charters, licenses, regulations, policies,
reports, and codes of practice. The FCC is mandated to review the procedures, policies, and
plans of all companies regulated and licensed by the agency to ensure that their objectives or
operations are consistent with the consolidating memorandum of association. The code of
federal regulation outlines the duties of the FCC’s top management, one of which is informing
the commission on issues related to National Cyber Security (NCS). The law also describes the
licensing procedures to be used by the FCC in case of emergencies. The FCC's orders and reports
establish the requirements for the NCS' critical service programs. Additionally, the Commission
sets operational, regulatory, and administrative guidelines for TSP (Telecommunications Service
Priority) programs. The orders also require service providers to send notifications to their
customers in case of constant network disruptions. The outage reporting system was diversified
in 2005 to cover satellites, wireless, and cable outages (Schaffer et al., 2010). The
Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) charter was also

modified to include emergency, security, interoperability, and security services in public data
and wireless networks.
The Vulnerabilities of the Sector and Potential Threats
Cyber threats and human activities are significant vulnerabilities in the communication
sector. Human activities like energy connections play a part in exposing the communication
sector to threats by increasing the dependence of its infrastructure on the energy sector during
long term service outages. Communication relies mostly on power from solar systems, electrical
sources, wind, or water; hence, shortages in power supply may hinder communication
operations. Operational issues in the network design, congestion, or natural disasters also have
the potential to negatively impact communication service delivery. Also, cyber threats are on the
rise in the digital era due to the advancements of technological capabilities and skills. The
vulnerability of communication infrastructure to cyber threats is caused by their overreliance on
off-the-shelf commercial items, open-systems networks, and interconnection of protocols via the
internet. However, cyber threats differ depending on their aim or perpetrators. For instance, these
threats can be caused by warfare, outsourcing, hacking, or insider activities. Cyber incidents are
unpredictable since they can be launched locally, internationally, or regionally.


A Historical Incident that Affected the Communication Sector
Hurricane Katrina had one of the most catastrophic impacts on the communication sector
in the history of the industry. The disaster happened in 2005 in Florida and Louisiana, but New
Orleans and its environs were the areas most damaged by the hurricane (Allen et al., 2017). The
hurricane began as a merger between a tropical depression and a tropical wave, which later
increased in intensity into a storm and eventually a hurricane. On the third day of the disaster, the

storm strengthened into a category five hurricane and emerged in the Gulf of Mexico (Miller,
2006). The sixth day saw the hurricane decrease into a category three hurricane which erupted in
Mississippi and southern Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina damaged a lot of properties, killed
thousands of people, and caused floods, making it the worst hurricane experienced by the US in
that century. During the disaster, communication and transportation networks were disabled or
damaged and people who had not evacuated before the incident remained stranded. International
and national response organizations joined the rescue mission to protect displaced individuals
over the subsequent weeks. Later investigations showed that the floods increased due to poor
structural design of levees built in the region. The U.S Army Corps of Engineers had performed
the building task but the1928 Flood Control Act ensured their immunity (Allen et al., 2007).
Although no one was held liable for hurricane Katrina, individuals, corporations, and the
government suffered significant losses.
Impacts of Hurricane Katrina on the Communication Sector
The events and aftermath of hurricane Katrina severely affected the communication
sector. Approximately 2,000 telephone towers, 180 central offices, 100 radio stations, and three
(3) million cellphone lines were knocked out (Allen et al., 2017). The 911 emergency services
were also not spared and the few that remained operational experienced spikes in call volumes as
people sought help or asked about their loved ones. According to the FCC, most of the conduits
for landline services and switching centers were flooded, while cell towers were
decommissioned. The loss of electric power in the affected regions forced service providers to
use batteries and back-up generators which eventually ran out of fuel or energy (Miller, 2006).
The extensive damage that the hurricane caused to bridges, command and control centers, roads
and other transportation networks halted repair efforts and, in turn, made it impossible to

resupply items. However, not all communication infrastructure was impacted as private networks
that rely on utilities retained their normalcy. Satellite phones and radios like Sirius also
continued operations when power was available. Although the available systems did not offer
solutions to the communication problems, they provided limited relief.
The teams mandated to issue emergency communications played less significant roles in
the early days of hurricane Katrina. Organizations like the Mobile Emergency Response Support
(MERS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were reluctant to implement
emergency response protocols with the hope that the disaster would pass. This illustrates a
complete failure in the critical infrastructure, which further damaged the Supervisory Control
and Data Acquisition (SCADA) control systems that oversee operations in other networked
systems. As a result, the facilities which mostly rely on the internet were inaccessible for long
periods. The side effects of the operability systems were further escalated by the lack of shared
information between public entities. Knowledge is a significant resource that could have
facilitated joint actions by operators to save communication utilities.
In modernity, people are very fond of telecommunication services as they aid them in a
myriad of daily activities. Therefore, the lack of communication capabilities in the gulf coast
resulted in disorientation. For instance, in the New Orleans police department, communications
systems were decommissioned for three days and first responders had to use the few backup
channels. Also, in the course of the disaster, Mississippi’s governor and emergency management
teams were unreachable for 48 hours (Miller, 2006). Furthermore, communication was degraded
by the classification of critical data and the conduction of the situational awareness concept. Law
enforcers from other jurisdictions were, in turn, issued with two-way radios using frequencies
that were unreachable by the local police.

Before hurricane Katrina, there were no formal information management plans necessary
for coordinating knowledge during incident response. Emergency responders lacked lists of
relevant information or sources of the information that would aid in the reconstruction efforts.
There were also no preassigned coordination phone numbers, and the available ones kept
changing during response activities. Often, critical data would be printed and hand-delivered to
command centers for managers to clarify whether they had the necessary information. In
essence, the government lost intelligence, control, command, reconnaissance, and surveillance
capabilities. The lack of structured means of communication in all government levels
perpetuated confusion and misunderstanding of the rapidly changing calamity. Speculations,
rumors, and misinformation further diminished authoritative means of maintaining order and,
consequently, fueled the loss in public confidence and dislocation. The misinformation in media
reports also had a significant impact on peoples' reactions, responders’ actions, and resource
allocation—the lack of understanding of the novelty of the situation meant that adequate
resources were not distributed to the areas that needed them the most.
Lessons from the Incident that have Implications for Infrastructure Protection and
There is a vast policy difference between typical disasters and catastrophes like hurricane
Katrina. Katrina caused a widespread and full-scale collapse of the communication infrastructure
that exceeded the coping mechanisms established by national, state, and federal governments
(Miller, 2006). During the disaster, civilization disappeared, the government was paralyzed, and
societies were disoriented. This proves that people cannot predict when next a similar event will
happen, even though chances of reoccurrence cannot be ignored. The aftermath of future
catastrophes may be greater hence the need to implement robust mitigation measures that can,

for instance, ensure unhedged communication systems. During hurricane Katrina, there were
plenty of warnings, and the likelihood of another onslaught was minimal. This allowed people to
evacuate from high-risk areas while government agencies and response groups prepared for
emergency service delivery.
The aftermath of Katrina provided a valuable lesson to the relevant organizations on the
importance of providing adequate training and resources to first responders to enable them to
better manage rescue operations before the arrival other agencies. During the hurricane, second
responders were tasked with the restoration of essential items like food, shelter, and clothing.
They also offered minor services like restoring network systems and electric power, clearing
paths, and roads. Policymakers were also required to mobilize military communication assets in
backstopping local police and response resources. The military laisses with the DHS to send
encrypted messages except when the missions coincide with activities of emergency responders
and civilian agencies. This lack of interoperability is worth examining in modernity, given the
evolution of security threats. The Katrina incident also aided in the recognition of the military's
role in disaster management. The national response plan stipulates that the army should not take
part in response activities but, rather, lend assistance. However, the military is more resourceful
in terms of personnel, deplorability, and mobility, which could be vital in catastrophic events that
cross state lines.


Threats and vulnerabilities in the communication sector cannot be ignored. Therefore, the
industry must educate operators and owners of the foundation on system design to mitigate the
risks in the critical infrastructure. This awareness will foster best practices and offer the
operators guidance on how to handle and maintain the network systems that improve redundancy

at critical nodes. Carriers of public communication systems must be encouraged to keep tested
backup products like batteries and generators that can withstand lengthy outages. The backups
must also be automated such that once power is cut off, operations can continue as usual.
Government agencies and private entities in the communication sector should devote significant
resources to employee or personnel training that deal with ways of collecting and disseminating
information to the public. If the exercise is primarily performed in media houses, rumors and
unreliable facts will be eliminated, thereby boosting effectiveness in recovery missions. Also,
joint taskforce activities should be introduced among stakeholders in the communication sector.
This cooperation will reduce time wastage and the amount of effort put into restoring critical
infrastructure as there will be sufficient, rapidly deployed resources from the DHS as well as
operations centers by the state, local, and federal jurisdictions. Lastly, the private sector and non-
governmental organizations should be included in the communication sector to provide
coordination and response abilities.


The communication sector is a diverse industry that is composed of satellites, cables,
wirelines, wireless, and broadcast infrastructure. Satellites deliver data, video, and voice services
while wireless networks facilitate high-frequency radio connections, paging, unlicensed licenses,
cellular phones, and personalized communication services. Cable infrastructure deals with digital
and analog video programs, high-speed internet, and digital telephone network. Wireline provide
enterprise networks and PSTN while broadcast offers television and radio services. The
communication sector operates under the policies that were implemented in 1984 and 1996 to
eliminate monopoly in service delivery, allow new entrants, and maximize quality. The FCC
regulates the industry using legislations, charters, licenses, regulations, policies, reports, and

codes of practice. Provisions of the instruments have, however, been improved in the post 9/11
era to cover wireless and satellite systems. The communication sector is, however, still
vulnerable to natural disasters, human activities, and cyber threats that have remained a menace
to the global infrastructural network. Hurricane Katrina, for instance, threatened stability in the
communication sector by damaging communication and cable networks. These left masses
stranded as they were unable to call for help, while the existing mitigation plans underestimated
the extent of future catastrophes. Therefore, private entities, the government, and non-
government organizations have a role to play in implementing measures, like organizing
trainings, to protect the communication sector.



Allen, J., Ellis, T., Fisher, S., Hunt, L., Janusaitis, R., Jones, M. W., … & Upright, R.
(2017). Harris county office of homeland security & emergency management
(HCOHSEM) information management analysis. OAKTrust. Retrieved from
Miller, R. (2006). Hurricane katrina: Communications & infrastructure impacts. Washington
DC: National Defense Univ Fort McNair DC.
Sarkar, A., Pick, J., & Moss, G. (2017). Geographic patterns and socio-economic influences on
mobile internet access and use in united states counties. In Proceedings of the 50th
Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.2942292
Schaffer, G., Keil, T. M., & Mayer, R. (2010). Communications sector-specific plan, an annex to
the national infrastructure protection plan.  Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved
from nipp-spp-communications-2010.pdf