Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Cellphone Networks Largely Weather Irene, But Storm Issues Could Linger

While Hurricane Irene has moved on, its impact on cellular networks continues to be felt in some places.

The huge storm affected a wide swath of the East Coast, but storm-related outages were more isolated. Many of the outages were tied to power loss, while there was also direct weather damage and other issues.

“We are very pleased with how our network has performed given the size of Hurricane Irene,” AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said in a statement. “We are seeing some impact from loss of commercial power and equipment damage, but technicians are now in the field assessing damage and beginning the restoration process.”

Verizon Wireless offered a similar take.

“Many of our cell sites in communities that have lost commercial power are still serving customers thanks to our backup emergency batteries and generators,” a representative said in a statement. “As commercial power is restored, we are returning more and more cell sites to normal operations. We also have been providing customers and the general public with free charging and domestic calling stations in some communities impacted by the storm and its aftermath.”

Generators helped keep cell service up even where power was lost. T-Mobile, for example, said it had brought in dozens. However, those generators have a limited amount of power, so new outages could crop up in some cases.

Sprint, like all of the other carriers, is working on both assessing the damage and getting things back to normal.

“While there are impediments due to excessive flooding, and downed trees and power lines, Sprint technicians have been working aggressively since Sunday to restore service to the impacted sites by refueling generators, clearing debris and making repairs,” the company said.

Colleague Arik Hessedahl and I discussed the issue on the Digits show earlier on Monday.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik