FCC: Super Storm Sandy Cell Site Outages at 19%

November 02, 2012

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said that their highest priority remains to continue working with all stakeholders to help restore America’s communications infrastructure after Super Storm Sandy.

They report that 19 percent of cell sites knocked off line by Hurricane Sandy were still out of service on Thursday morning.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski commented on the news by saying: “Overall, we’re seeing both continued improvement in communications networks and also that much work remains to be done to restore service fully. The supply of fuel to generators is essential to keep communications service up and running, and we’re working with federal, state, and local authorities to speed fuel delivery. This is a priority because our commercial communications networks are essential to emergency response and recovery efforts, as well as to commercial activities and connecting with family.”

FCC Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau Chief David Turetsky added, “Our Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) remains activated and we continue to collect data from communications companies about the impacts of the storm. As of 10 a.m. this morning, our assessment indicates steady improvements in wireline and wireless communications networks throughout the affected area. However, restoration efforts in the hardest hit areas – including New York and New Jersey – continues to be more difficult. Replenishing fuel supplies for generators that are enabling communications networks to continue operating is a particularly critical challenge.

Our latest data indicate that calls throughout the affected area can be received at 9-1-1 call centers, though in limited cases calls are being re-routed to another center or do not contain location information. We have reached out to every affected 911 center and the relevant state authorities, and we are talking to communications providers about what can be done to address this.

Based on data from 10 a.m. this morning, the number of cell site outages overall has declined from approximately 25 percent to 19 percent. This figure includes many cases where cell sites that are otherwise operational are effectively inoperable because of outages in other parts of the communications infrastructure, which is highly interdependent. With regards to cable services, it appears that outages have declined to approximately 12 – 14 percent, from initial outages estimates of 25 percent.

“Meanwhile, FCC staff at headquarters and at field offices are working around the clock to support FEMA’s efforts, and respond to requests for support from state and local teams, as well as communications companies. For example, FCC field agents have been working with others on-the-ground in New York City to get fuel to a switching center that serves many communications providers.

We also issued another special temporary authorization, which was to assist an energy company with restoration operations in several states."

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