Access letters from the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) National Communications Coordination Branch (NCC), regarding COVID-19 are now updated. The new guidance again clarifies that the final decision whether to grant access rests with state and local authorities, but takes a broader approach than the previous letter. For example, the new guidance no longer includes the phrase: “The bearer of this letter is providing emergency communications sustainment and restoration support to critical communications infrastructure facilities in response to: COVID-19 Declaration of National Emergency.” However, a spokesperson for DHS specifically listed “public messaging” among the lifesaving capabilities that are necessary to ensure during the pandemic and in response to natural disasters. DHS also stated that this new guidance should help facilitate consistent requirements for movement and access across states’ borders, and help communications workers movements when challenged.
Many of you have asked if these updated letters will allow access during the ongoing protests. Although the new guidance does not specifically address that topic, broadcasters should certainly feel free to try to use this new letter during the protests, although as always, final approval for access will be made at the local level. This is only a letter of recommendation from CISA. Please note that while these letters are provided as a courtesy to help communications providers access their facilities as needed to maintain continuity of service, according to the NCC, state/local authorities retain final discretion on matters of local public safety, access and related issues. We urge each member to be in contact with staff at Emergency Management and within other areas of state government to ensure the most up-to-date information can be disseminated.
If you haven’t already received our email with links to the letters, please email us directly for the links.
UPDATE 3/20: CISA has released this guide to assist with questions about the access letters.