The Communications Sector is an integral component of the U.S. economy, underlying the operations of all businesses, public safety organizations, and government. Presidential Policy Directive 21 identifies the Communications Sector as critical because it provides an “enabling function” across all critical infrastructure sectors. Over the last 25 years, the sector has evolved from predominantly a provider of voice services into a diverse, competitive, and interconnected industry using terrestrial, satellite, and wireless transmission systems. The transmission of these services has become interconnected; satellite, wireless, and wireline providers depend on each other to carry and terminate their traffic and companies routinely share facilities and technology to ensure interoperability.
The private sector, as owners and operators of the majority of communications infrastructure, is the primary entity responsible for protecting sector infrastructure and assets. Working with the federal government, the private sector is able to predict, anticipate, and respond to sector outages and understand how they might affect the ability of the national leadership to communicate during times of crisis, impact the operations of other sectors, and affect response and recovery efforts.
The Communications Sector is closely linked to other sectors, including:
- The Energy Sector provides power to run cellular towers, central offices, and other critical communications facilities;
- The Information Technology Sector provides critical control systems and services, physical architecture and Internet infrastructure;
- The Financial Services Sector relies on communications for the transmission of transactions and operations of financial markets; and
- The Emergency Services Sector depends on communications for directing resources, coordinating response, alerting the public, and receiving emergency 911 calls.
The Communications Sector-Specific Plan (PDF, 126 pages – 2.85 MB) details how the National Infrastructure Protection Plan risk management framework is implemented within the context of the unique characteristics and risk landscape of the sector. Each Sector-Specific Agency develops a sector-specific plan through a coordinated effort involving its public and private sector partners. The Department of Homeland Security is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Communications Sector.
For resources available to Communications Sector partners, check out the links on the right hand sidebar.