Hurricane Sandy Knocks Out 25 Percent of U.S. Cell Phone Towers, More Outages Possible: FCC

By Ed Silverstein October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy pounded the East Coast this week and knocked out 25 percent of U.S. cell phone towers, the FCC said.

The massive storm led to floods, power outages, high winds and snow – all of which affected cell phone towers, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

The towers were located in 10 Eastern states, and it does not appear the service disruptions would be resolved soon. Many cell phone towers that continued to operate were using emergency generators, though they may run out of power before utility companies can restore their electricity, the FCC warned.

Similarly, some 25 percent of cable TV customers lost service from hurricane damage. Call centers for 911 services, however, appear to have not been seriously damaged from the storm. Some emergency calls were rerouted, but that likely meant staff did not get location information during the crisis.

Image via Shutterstock

Many websites, such as the Huffington Post and Gawker, went offline for a while, but a number of telecom carriers rerouted international traffic, according to an Associated Press report carried on TechZone360. This is because carriers shifted Internet traffic away from New York City to continue to provide international service.

In addition, some data centers and phone companies in New York’s Wall Street area switched to diesel generators, The AP added.

Datagram Inc., a Web hosting company, reportedly lost power, and floods in its basement were keeping backup generators from pumping fuel.

“The impacts on Internet connectivity have been severe,” added a recent blog post from Renesys.

Also, Verizon Communications in downtown Manhattan had locations flooded, leading to some customers losing phone and Internet service, The AP said. Customers lost Verizon’s FiOS – offering voice, Internet and video – as well as high-speed Internet and telephone service, according to ZDNet.

Google's New York headquarters saw outages too. Sprint customers in the New York metro region, in parts of Pennsylvania and in parts of New England lost service as well, ZDNet said.

Internet-monitoring company, Renesys Corp., reported there were many outages in New Jersey and New York. Also, Cablevision, a cable TV company, saw outages in the metro New York region. Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, said customers who lost power had no cable service.

Meanwhile, AT&T was checking for damage and restoring service, The AP added. The firm did not offer details on service disruption.

"The storm is not over. Our assumption is that communications outages could get worse before they get better – particularly for mobile," Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the FCC, was quoted by The Hill from a statement he made on Tuesday.

Numerous officials urged people to text or use social media instead of making long phone calls – and in that way limit use of the airwaves.

To help matters, the FCC employed staff with specialized equipment to determine “which frequencies are still carrying signals and which frequencies have gone dark,” according to The Hill. “The information can help FEMA and state officials restore communications services.”

It appeared that landline phone network held up better in the 10 states than cell networks, ZDNet said. “That said, more than a quarter of landline customers are affected by outages in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York City and state,” according to ZDNet.

On Tuesday, some seven to eight million people were without power due to the hurricane.

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Contributor

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