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July 02, 2012

Mobile, Cable TV, Broadband Networks More Robust than Fixed Voice Network After Storm

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Historically, one huge "selling point" for fixed network service has been that the fixed network is more reliable than the mobile network, supporting emergency calling better than mobile or VoIP services do.

That has not necessarily proven to be the case in the wake of the "derecho" storm, which hit much of the Mid-Atlantic region June 29, 2012, knocking out power to as many as three million people.

Cellular and Internet services went down, at least for a while, in some areas across Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

What seem to have not gotten much attention are the outages to landline customers stretching beyond two full days, in at least some areas of northern Virginia, in Reston and Herndon, Va.

The reports are anecdotal, but are interesting precise, as the mobile, cable TV and Internet access networks have held up better than the fixed phone network, in at least some areas.

There were also several complete failures of the emergency calling system in several areas.

Granted, power outages are extremely widespread, with Dominion Power saying it will take as much as a week to restore service completely. Since most people use cordless devices, power outages means cordless devices don’t work. But even some customers with corded devices appeared still to be having service interruptions about 48 hours after the storm.

That means the network was down, not the customer premises gear. Right now, power is the bigger issue with temperatures off the charts, so some might not be worrying too much about phone service – especially since mobile service, though also an issue, has been working better.

Most can’t remember a fixed network outage lasting that long, especially at locations where local power continued to be available, and where all power lines are buried, so falling trees were not an issue.

The damage and widespread power outages are obviously akin to a hurricane, but it might be noteworthy that Internet, cable TV and mobile service, at least at some locations, have proven more reliable than the fixed voice network. That’s something most haven’t seen before.

Edited by Braden Becker

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