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October 31, 2012

FCC Expects Mobile Outages to Get Worse Before They Get Better Following Sandy

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

While many in the wake of Hurricane Sandy are struggling with the loss of homes, property, basic services like electricity and even life itself, the losses don't end there. Earlier today, the FCC (News - Alert) warned that around one in every four cell phone towers across 10 states were knocked out of service thanks to the storm, and cable services didn't fare better, posting the same numbers. What's worse, based on the FCC's warning, things not only may not improve any time soon, they may actually get worse.

The FCC's chairman, Julius Genachowski (News - Alert), remarked that "the storm is not over," and expected more disruption of services to follow as the storm carried on toward the west thanks to a combination of flooding and loss of power. While many cell phone towers have some kind of battery backup that keeps them operational in the event of a power outage, that can only go so far, especially as power isn't likely to be restored soon in many affected areas. The flooding, meanwhile, has also done damage that will affect recovery.

911 calls are being rerouted, and the FCC and FEMA are working with area officials to keep some kind of services operational. Genachowski, for his part, is suggesting that those affected turn to text messaging and Facebook (News - Alert) to keep in contact with loved ones. Landline services have had much less problem following the storm, and broadband and social media have played a surprisingly large role in post-disaster communications, while also leaving the other networks open for emergency crews.

Verizon (News - Alert) rang a note of assent to the FCC's calls, saying that they were hard at work getting service back on line--some "pockets of damage," as Verizon's president of the Consumer and Mass Business division Bob Mudge explained "could take up to a week or more to fully restore"-since some facilities would actually need to be rebuilt from the ground up, while others required the restoration of commercial power to come back online. Since several of Verizon's key facilities experienced flooding, that's also limiting their ability to provide back-up service.

It was quite clear from the outset that a storm this massive, this purely destructive, was going to require a lot of time, effort and resources to make any kind of recovery headway possible. But it's equally clear that said time, effort and resources are being expended on every front to get services restored. While this is a process that will likely take more time to carry out, hopefully those affected will be able to resume their normal lives in the near future.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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