US Operators Assess Damage After Hurricane Sandy


American operators are struggling to restore mobile services after Hurricane Sandy hit the US east coast

Mobile operators in the United States, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and others, are struggling to  restore communications and Internet services to parts of the East Coast damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

New York City and parts of New Jersey, where the storm came ashore 29 October, were particularly hard hit, with reports of millions of people without power, telephone and mobile services throughout the region.

Sandy, with its huge size, hurricane-force winds and driving rain, impacted services from Boston on south throughout much of the East Coast.

Infrastructure Damage

In statements issued 30 October, officials with the top wireless carriers as well as Internet providers like Comcast told stories of service interruptions throughout the East Coast as a result of snapped power lines, downed trees and flooding caused by the winds and storm surge that drove water from the Atlantic Ocean onto land.

“As we continue to closely monitor our wireline and wireless networks for service disruptions, we are experiencing some issues in areas heavily impacted by the storm,” AT&T officials said in a statement. “We are in the initial stages of performing an on-the-ground assessment of our network for damage, and crews will be working around the clock to restore service. We are deploying personnel and equipment as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The company also put out a two-minute video on YouTube outlining how it was preparing for the storm, from setting up the response centre with dispatchers to getting truckloads of portable generators stationed and ready to be deployed after Sandy blew through.

In a statement, officials with Sprint and T-Mobile said 30 October that crews are continuing to sort through Sandy’s aftermath.

“Severe high winds and weather conditions continue to affect many areas,” the T-Mobile officials said. “Due to the impacts of Sandy, T-Mobile customers may be experiencing service disruptions or an inability to access service in some areas, especially those that were hardest hit by the storm. T-Mobile rapid-response engineering teams are assessing the situation, and we are moving as quickly as possible.”

Sprint officials also acknowledge the challenge of assessing the situation and quickly addressing the problems amid such widespread destruction.

“Sprint is experiencing service impacts in the states affected by Hurricane Sandy and the concurrent winter weather conditions, particularly in the New York tri-state area, the Washington, D.C., metro area, Pennsylvania and parts of New England,” they said. “These impacts are due to loss of commercial power, flooding, loss of cell site backhaul connections, site access and damaging debris. Weather and safety conditions are still dire in some areas, but our technicians are assessing the damage and servicing sites as they become known to us and as the areas are deemed safe to enter. Given the ongoing weather conditions, we cannot provide a specific number of impacted customers, but we ask that they remain patient at this time and exercise caution in the aftermath of the recent events.”

Power Outages

In addition, carriers and Internet service providers are also beset by the impacts of Sandy and the ensuing lack of power that are impacting residents in the affected areas. According to Verizon officials, several Verizon offices in the New York City area – including Manhattan, Queens and Long Island – experienced power failures, which hindered backup power systems at the sites.

“While these sites are currently on battery power, the inevitable loss of power requires that all equipment at these sites be powered down to prevent damage,” the officials said in a statement. “Customers that are served by these central offices will experience a loss of all services including FiOS (voice, Internet, video), high-speed Internet and telephone services. Some customers may experience intermittent busy signals while attempting to dial 311 service for non-emergency calls. Verizon engineers continue to assess the damage at these locations, and we will post updates as additional information is available.”

Officials with Comcast, in a message sent to subscribers of the company’s Internet, phone and cable services before Sandy hit, said that the company would address problems caused by the storm as soon as possible, but that much depended on when energy companies could restore power.

“If you experience a service outage due to the storm, please remember: Commercial power must be restored to your home to power your cable box and modem before your video, phone and Internet services can begin working again,” the officials said in the message. “Only after power lines are repaired in your area can Comcast technicians obtain access to repair any network damage the storm might have caused. After the storm, our broadband network will alert us to the areas affected by a system outage.”

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Originally published on eWeek.

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