Hurricane Irene Took Down More than 6,000 Cell Sites: FCC

By Beecher Tuttle August 30, 2011

Although Hurricane Irene exited the U.S. border nearly 48 hours ago, the fallout from the catastrophe is still rolling in.

The Federal Communications Commission updated its figures on Monday to show that around 6,500 cell towers and sites were either damaged or adversely affected by the hurricane, according to Computer World. The report comes just one day after the FCC noted optimistically that only 1,400 cell site outages occurred during the hurricane.

In addition, around 210,000 wired customers were left without service on Monday, up from the 132,000 that were reported on Sunday.

It comes as no surprise that Vermont's telecom providers were hit hardest by the hurricane, which resulted in severe flooding up and down the Green Mountain State. As of Monday afternoon, around 44 percent of all cell sites in Vermont were still down.

Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia each have more than 25 percent of their cell sites inactive.

The chief reason for the uptick in outages is the backup power systems, which allow cell sites to run for a day or two after the primary system goes down. Once the generators run out of juice, a permanent fix is the only option.

James Barnett, the chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, warned over the weekend that future outages may occur.

Overall, the FCC still seems to be pleased with the information gained from its initial assessment. Chairman Julius Genachowski recently said that all 911 centers are in operation, and the FCC has yet to receive any reports of public safety communication outages.

Furthermore, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint each released statements on Monday that said no significant network outages had occurred. The companies will continue to make repairs on the 6,000-plus cell sites that were affected by the storm.

Meanwhile, the destruction associated with the hurricane resulted in power outages for more than 5 million homes, many of which have still yet to be plugged back into the grid. Although Irene was a bit tamer than anticipated, it will still end up costing telecom and power companies tens of millions of dollars.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

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Beecher Tuttle is a TechZone360 contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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