Telecommunications companies have told regulators that as many as 25% of all wireless cellular towers are out in a ten-state area thanks to Hurricane Sandy. The telecommunications companies are also saying that a quarter of all cable service is out in the same ten-state area. Far fewer landline outages have been reported.
The carriers also report that a “very small” number of 911 call centers have been affected by the outage. Calls coming into affected 911 call centers are being rerouted according to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. It remains unclear exactly how many wireless phone users and cable customers are affected by the massive outages.
Genachowski warned that cable and wireless communication services are likely to get worse before it gets better. Disruptions in wireless communications and cable television services are expected to increase as Sandy moves west and north or if existing cellular towers that are running on backup generators go off-line before power is restored to affected areas. Right now, electric companies estimate that as many as 8 million people in storm-affected areas are without power.
“The storm is not over. And our assumption is that communications outages could get worse before they get better, particularly for mobile networks because of the flooding and loss of power,” said Genachowski.
The cell phone outage was estimated as of yesterday to cover 158 counties from Virginia to Massachusetts according to reports. Verizon has already reported that three central offices that house telecommunications equipment in lower Manhattan have been flooded along with centers in Queens and Long Island. So far, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have all reported service issues along with cable companies including Cablevision Systems, Comcast, and Time Warner.
Mobile outages and cable outages mean than many peopel are likely unable to get updates on the storm from services like Google.
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