updated 12:34 pm EDT, Wed October 31, 2012
More cell coverage degradation expected
Hurricane Sandy has caused a quarter of cell towers to go down in 10 states. The Federal Communications Commission also claimed that cell coverage will deteriorate further while the storm continues its devastating path, with high winds causing localized flooding, loss of power, destruction of property, and in some cases, causing fires.
Speaking in a conference call to press, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said "The storm is not over. And our assumption is that communications outages could get worse before they get better, particularly for mobile networks," reports CNET. As of 10am Eastern Time, 25 percent of cell sites were not functioning in 158 counties across a 10-state area between Virginia and Massachusetts. The agency's Disaster Information Reporting System also confirmed that a quarter of customers are without cable-based broadband, while landline outages suffered fewer problems.
As the storm is continuing in a westerly direction, more disruption is expected to take place. Some sites running on backup power supplies in currently affected areas may go down in the future, after generators run out of fuel or as batteries are emptied.
The reduced network coverage and capacity will strain the network until sites are recovered. The FCC recommends that the public uses text messaging, social media, and other means to contact family and friends, rather than use the cell network. It is also advising that the 911 emergency services should only be called when it is an emergency, and that 911 call centers are also suffering with outages, though emergency calls are being rerouted to backup call centers.