FCC Chairman Ajit Pai confirmed Wednesday that he will travel to storm-ravaged areas of Texas on September 5 “to inspect the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey and meet with those engaged in recovery efforts,” pledging: “in close coordination with the Department of Homeland Security,” the FCC will do everything it can to help restore communications services after this terrible storm.”
While Texas counties directly in the path of Harvey’s August 25 landfall suffered the highest rate of cell site outages at more than 50% as of Tuesday, statistics supplied by the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) depicted a 4.7% rate of cell site failure across the 55 Texas and Louisiana counties impacted by Harvey on Tuesday. That rate had fallen to 3.8% as of yesterday. Seven public safety answering points (PSAPs), all located in Texas, remained out of service from the storm as of yesterday, and the FCC confirmed that traffic at all affected PSAPs had been or was in the process of being rerouted. As of yesterday, at least 270,000 subscribers in affected areas were without cable or wireline telephone service. Nine broadcast radio stations and two televisions stations, all in Texas, were also reported to be off the air.
Meanwhile, each of the four national wireless carriers announced they would temporarily provide customers in affected areas with free text and calling services and unlimited or additional data service regardless of their rate plans. Acknowledging that floods of historic magnitude “have affected wireline service for some customers” in hard-hit Houston, an AT&T spokesman declared that “technicians are working to restore service . . . as quickly and safely as conditions allow.” AT&T confirmed that it had also deployed seven portable cell sites, two charging stations, and additional resources to assist with service restoration efforts. Verizon also announced the establishment of a 24/7 emergency command center and the dispatch of back-up generators and a fleet of mobile power units to assist affected customers in charging their wireless devices, workstations and computers. Proclaiming that, “thanks to wireless, millions of people in the path of Hurricane Harvey have been able to seek help and connect with family and loved ones in the face of this unprecedented event,” Meredith Attwell Baker, the president of wireless association CTIA, declared: “I’m proud of the planning and close collaboration of carriers to prepare for the storm and the ongoing work to both maintain and restore service.”