Restoration of wireless communications services are improving, but more than 9 percent of cell sites are still out in areas of the Florida Panhandle that were hardest-hit by Hurricane Michael.
This is according to the FCC’s latest status report on communications services in areas impacted by the hurricane, which made landfall Oct. 10 as a Category 4 hurricane near Mexico Beach, Fla. On
Overall, 3.2 percent of cell sites out of service in the affected areas as of Wednesday, down from 4.4 percent on Tuesday. There are no longer any counties in the disaster area with more than 50 percent of cell sites out of service.
As of yesterday afternoon, 241 cell sites (9.5 percent) were out in the affected counties of Florida. Bay County still has 151 cell sites out, representing 46.2 percent of the total. Overall there are 3.2 percent of cell sites out of service in the affected areas, down from 4.4 percent on Tuesday.
There were significant improvements in Georgia over the last six days however, with the percentage of cell sites out dropping from 14.2 percent to 0.2 percent as of yesterday. Eight cell sites still remain out.
Only one cell site in Alabama remains out. The FCC noted that the number of cell site outages in a specific area does not necessarily correspond to the availability of wireless service in that area, as networks are usually designed with overlapping cell sites to ensure continued service. Also, carriers have been deploying temporary assets like cells-on-wheels (COWs).
On Tuesday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had issued a statement saying carrier’s progress in restoring wireless service to hard-hit areas was “completely unacceptable.”
In a Thursday update, Verizon, which had previously reported “unprecedented damage” to its fiber network in Panama City, Panama City Beach and the surrounding areas, said multiple efforts are underway to restore service in Bay County and surrounding areas that are still experiencing service interruptions.
“Inadvertent fiber cuts resulting from recovery workers and residents managing debris removal as well as power and fiber rebuilding and restoral efforts throughout the community continue to impact previously restored cell sites. Our fiber crews are quick to assess and repair those new fiber cuts,” a representative said in an update.
Verizon has deployed portable cell sites with satellite connections over the last 24 hours for the Army National Guard Panama City, Panama City Mall where they are staging recovery resources, Panama City Veterans Affairs, a Shelter at Northside Elementary School, a shelter at Dean Bozeman High School, Mossy Pond Library, Marianna Airport and the Army National Guard in Marianna.
Pai is scheduled to visit the hard-hit areas of the Florida Panhandle on Friday where he will meet with service providers and government officials as he assesses damage from the storm and gets an update on recovery efforts.
“Hurricane Michael inflicted tremendous damage on many communities in Florida, and many residents are struggling to recover from the destruction. The FCC has been working to support federal, state, and local partners, as well as communications providers and broadcasters, to ensure that communications services can be restored as quickly as possible,” Pai said in a statement. “I look forward to getting an on-the-ground assessment and continuing to work to help residents and communities bounce back from this tragic storm. In particular, I hope to see that wireless coverage in the area near where the hurricane made landfall is being restored more quickly than was the case earlier this week.”
On the cable and wireline side, more than 150,000 subscribers are still without service across the three states.