The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has developed an initial list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to help state and local officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security during the COVID-19 crisis.

The list can also inform critical infrastructure community decision-making to determine the sectors, sub-sectors, segments, or critical functions that should continue normal operations, appropriately modified to account for Centers for Disease Control (CDC) workforce and customer protection guidance.

Indicating the importance of the international submarine fiber optic cable network, workers at submarine cable landing stations and cable ship crews figure prominently in the list. 

CISA identifies workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing management functions, among others. The industries they support represent, but are not necessarily limited to, medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works.

Within the telecommunications sector, the list focuses on the maintenance of communications infrastructure -- including privately owned and maintained communication systems -- supported by technicians, operators, call-centers, wireline and wireless providers, cable service providers, satellite operations, undersea cable landing stations (including cable marine depots and submarine cable ship operators), Internet Exchange Points, and manufacturers and distributors of communications equipment.

“State, local, tribal, and territorial governments are ultimately in charge of implementing and executing response activities in communities under their jurisdiction, while the Federal Government is in a supporting role. As State and local communities consider COVID-19-related restrictions, CISA is offering this list to assist prioritizing activities related to continuity of operations and incident response, including the appropriate movement of critical infrastructure workers within and between jurisdictions. Accordingly, this list is advisory in nature. It is not, nor should it be considered to be, a federal directive or standard in and of itself,” CISA said in a statement.