Cell-site outages fall to 19 percent in area hit by Sandy, FCC says

Portable cells and emergency generators are still in place to keep communications alive

About 19 percent of cell sites in the area hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy were still out of service on Thursday morning as recovery was slowed by other network failures and power shortages, according to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

By 10 a.m. Eastern on Thursday, the outages had declined from about 22 percent of all cell sites in the region a day earlier, the FCC said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. That was an average across the area most affected by the storm, stretching across parts of 10 states. In addition, cable TV and cable Internet outages had been reduced to about 12 percent to 14 percent, the agency said.

"Overall, we're seeing both continued improvement in communications networks and also that much work remains to be done to restore service fully," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in the statement. As a key part of the recovery effort, the agency is working with federal, state and local authorities to help get fuel to generators, he said.

There was steady improvement in the wired and wireless communications networks across the storm area, but restoration of service in the areas hardest hit, such as New York and New Jersey, has been more difficult, said David Turetsky, head of the FCC's Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau. Some sites that could otherwise have come back online were held back by failures elsewhere in the communications infrastructure, he said.

The FCC said its Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) remained active and the agency was still collecting data from carriers about the effects of the storm.

On Thursday, the major wired and wireless carriers continued to bring facilities back up and deployed portable cell sites, some of which offered free device charging for people who had lost power.

T-Mobile USA reported that its network had been 85 percent restored in New York City and 80 percent restored on Staten Island. Verizon Communications said it had restored backup power to four critical facilities in lower Manhattan and one on Long Island that had suffered from flooding on Monday night. Those included the company's Manhattan headquarters.

Though Sandy had been downgraded from hurricane status before it reached land on Monday, it devastated a wide swath of the East Coast from North Carolina to Canada, stretching west to Michigan. The worst damage was in New York City and northern New Jersey.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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