In­ter­net, ca­ble, cell ser­vice all af­fected by power out­ages

The Palm Beach Post - - HURRICANE IRMA - By Lawrence Mower

Wi-Fi and cell­phone cov­er­age re­mains spotty through­out South Florida, and there’s a sim­ple rea­son: Like ev­ery­one else, the com­pa­nies that pro­vide it don’t have power, thanks to Hur­ri­cane Irma.

Cell tow­ers across the state have been cut off from the power grid and are re­ly­ing on gen­er­a­tors to keep go­ing, spokes­peo­ple for two of the four ma­jor wire­less car­ri­ers said.

“The faster the power comes back on, the faster all telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices can get back on,” a T-Mo­bile spokes­woman said Tues­day. “The power out­ages are just ev­ery­where. It’s def­i­nitely caus­ing a lot of ef­fect across the board.”

For Com­cast, the main provider of Wi-Fi in Palm Beach County, it’s a sim­i­lar story.

“Many of our fa­cil­i­ties in Palm Beach County, and vir­tu­ally all of them in Broward County and fur­ther south in Mi­ami-Dade, are func­tion­ing on gen­er­a­tors due to the com­plete loss of com­mer­cial power,” Com­cast spokes­woman Mindy Kramer said.

Phys­i­cal dam­age to cell tow­ers doesn’t ap­pear to be an is­sue. Tow­ers are meant to with­stand high winds.

“It’s re­ally rare to see a tower top­ple over,” said Roni Sin­gle­ton, a Sprint spokes­woman for Florida.

But be­cause of the power out­ages, the lack of cov­er­age right now is worse in South Florida, and — bizarrely — much worse than Hous­ton re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced de­spite that city’s mas­sive flood­ing from Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

“There was re­ally very lit­tle loss of mo­bile ser­vice in Hous­ton, across all car­ri­ers,” the T-Mo­bile spokes­woman said. “Hous­ton was able to main­tain power the en­tire time.”

Cell tow­ers are re­quired to have bat­ter­ies that pro­vide eight to 12 hours of power for first re­spon­ders, the T-Mo­bile spokes­woman said. Af­ter that, they rely on gen­er­a­tors for power. But fallen trees and de­bris have made it dif­fi­cult to re­fuel some of the gen­er­a­tors, she said.

Ver­i­zon said close to 90 per­cent of its fa­cil­i­ties were work­ing, with many run­ning on backup gen­er­a­tors.

“Mas­sive re­fu­el­ing op­er­a­tions are un­der­way to en­sure those sites with­out com­mer­cial power con­tinue in ser­vice for our cus­tomers and first re­spon­ders,” the com­pany said in a state­ment.

Sprint and Com­cast said they’re send­ing satel­lite trucks and mo­bile plat­forms to South Florida to pro­vide tem­po­rary cov­er­age un­til power re­turns. AT&T said it was send­ing por­ta­ble cell sites to the Keys, Mi­ami and Tal­la­has­see.

None of the com­pa­nies would give a time frame for when full cov­er­age would re­turn, but T-Mo­bile and Sprint said cov­er­age was get­ting bet­ter by the hour.

“I think by to­mor­row, we’ll see a huge im­prove­ment in the num­ber of sites that are back up,” Sin­gle­ton said.

BILL IN­GRAM / THE PALM BEACH POST

Cell tow­ers across the state have been cut off from the power grid and are re­ly­ing on gen­er­a­tors to keep go­ing, two wire­less car­ri­ers say.

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