FCC chair: Wireless carriers’ Hurricane Michael response ‘completely unacceptable’ | WRAL TechWire

FCC chair: Wireless carriers’ Hurricane Michael response ‘completely unacceptable’

FCC chair: Wireless carriers’ Hurricane Michael response ‘completely unacceptable’

Verizon mobile gear in place following Hurricane Michael

Ajit Pai, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, is blasting wireless carriers’ efforts to restore service in areas of Florida devastated by Hurricane Michael and is ordering an investigation.

“Even though efforts to restore communications services have been going well in most of the areas affected by Hurricane Michael, the slow progress in restoring wireless service in areas close to where the hurricane made landfall is completely unacceptable,” Pai declared in a statement issued Tuesday.

“While the FCC has been in regular contact with companies serving the affected areas, I’m concerned that their actions on the ground aren’t matching the urgency that we have conveyed during those conversations.”

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile say they are endeavoring to restore service. But Pai wants more.

“I am therefore joining [Florida] Governor [Rick] Scott in calling on wireless carriers to waive the bills of Floridians in these affected areas for the month of October and to allow them to change carriers without penalty.  These carriers also need to immediately disclose publicly to Floridians how they will quickly restore service.

“In addition, I have directed our Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau to promptly initiate an investigation into this matter.”

AT&T defended its response.

“We began preparing for this storm before it arrived and our work continues today. Because of these efforts, we were able to keep our customers, including first responders, connected during and after the storm in many areas,” the communications giant said in a statement provided to news site The Verge.

“In addition, we deployed 15 large scale portable cell sites to the most storm damaged areas to provide connectivity. Before the storm hit we announced and implemented credits for our customers.”


AT&T also said it will be offering credits to customers.

“Beginning on October 10 credits have been given to customers in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Liberty, Taylor and Wakulla counties. We plan to continue extending these credits through October 21st, and will continue as conditions require,” AT&T said.

“Our crews continue working day and night to ensure continuing connectivity for the affected areas.”

AT&T photo

An AT&T van deployed to help with hurricane recovery efforts.

In its latest update posted Monday, AT&T reported:

“Overall our networks have performed well during Hurricane Michael and we are nearly fully restored in most affected areas. We continue to move quickly to keep our customers, FirstNet subscribers and public safety agencies connected as they work to keep our communities safe. Our teams continue to work around the clock to repair and restore service, and address the remaining parts of our network that have been affected by the storm. We are currently supporting communications with portable cell sites (COLTs) in numerous locations throughout Florida and Georgia, and working to deploy additional recovery equipment as needed.”

Verizon also is offering credits.

“Every Verizon customer in Bay and Gulf counties will be automatically credited for 3 months of mobile service for each line,” the company said. “This free service is for both consumer and business accounts.”

In an update on recovery efforts posted Tuesday, Verizon reported progress:

“In Panama City, two more sites came back into service overnight covering the town of Vernon in Washington County and the businesses and residential areas of the western part of Panama City including Gulf Coast State College and FSU Panama City. These new sites are in addition to the ones that came up late yesterday afternoon east of Panama City covering the area north of Alford and I-10 area, the town of Wausau and the Washington County EOC and an area north of Panama City where Highway 231 and US 98 meet is also back on air using repaired fiber.  Crews continue their fiber repair work throughout the day today.”

T-Mobile reported Tuesday:

  • North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia sites are fully recovered.
  • Service in Bay and Gulf counties (Florida), including Mexico Beach, has been largely restored.
  • In Panama City, we are on standby to get remaining sites up as soon as fiber service is up and running.

The company also said it is offering one month of free service to affected customers.

In a statement, Sprint also offered credits:

“Sprint customers impacted by Hurricane Michael with usage between Oct. 10, 2018 and Oct. 14, 2018 will have call, text and data overage fees waived for the full billing period. Customers on Unlimited plans will continue to enjoy their unlimited data, call and text benefits.”

However, Sprint’s website contains no network status updates.