More Harvey-Hit Tower Sites Return to Service


As the rain was starting to lessen in areas of Southeast Texas initially impacted by Tropical Storm Harvey, carriers reported few cell tower sites out of commission on Wednesday. Of the 55 impacted counties in Texas and Louisiana, 4.2 percent of the cell sites were out of service, down from 4.7 percent on Tuesday, according to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS).

For the first time since the FCC began issuing daily communications outage reports for Harvey, there were no counties with more than 50 percent of sites out of service. Aransas and Refugio were both above 50 percent on Tuesday, but dropped from 84.2 percent to 47.4 percent and from 73.1 percent to 26.9 percent, respectively. There were no cell sites reported out of service in Louisiana. That, too, is an improvement. On Tuesday, Calcasieu, St. John the Baptist, and Terrebonne parishes each reported one site out.  

A total of 11 emergency calls centers were out — all in Texas — yesterday, compared to 15 on Tuesday. Two more radio stations came back on the air Wednesday, with five still off-air. That’s compared to nine out, originally. However for TV, the situation is reversed, two more stations are off the air for a total of three – compared to no TV stations off the air for the first several days after the storm hit.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is scheduled to tour the impacted areas next Tuesday, September 5. “Working 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,” stated Pai. “I look forward to meeting those on the ground in Texas and seeing firsthand what needs to be done to make sure that those affected can get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Both AT&T and Verizon are now using drones to speed tower inspection in areas of Southeast Texas impacted by Tropical Storm Harvey. AT&T is deploying a fleet of 25 devices to determine the storm’s impact on its cell networks.

“With drones, we hope to more quickly access areas that are flooded or otherwise inaccessible due to storm damage. Drones can take HD video and photos of a cell site and a birds’ eye view of the tower top — providing high-quality visuals of equipment, components and cabling,” spokesman Jeffrey Kobs told Inside Towers on Wednesday. The engineers can quickly and remotely review video the drones take of tower sites in real time.  

AT&T also planned to deploy two more Satellite Cell on Wheels (Sat COLTs) in Beaumont, Texas and stage 12 more in the area to support customers and first responders in that area, following Harvey’s second landfall.

“Flood waters are impacting the entire area and commercial power is out in many places throughout Texas, but back-up generators are running and we are refueling them as needed to ensure facilities continue operating,” Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Karen Schulz told Inside Towers on Wednesday. The carrier has been repairing impacted network facilities. In many cases, those are complete with the deployment of  microwave technology where fiber has been temporarily interrupted, she indicated.

Verizon employees who can safely do so, are working in area shelters to support those who have been displaced. Additionally, Verizon has extended by one week — to September 15 — its offer to impacted Texas customers of data, text and voice relief to postpaid customers and an extra 3GB of free data to prepaid customers in South Texas counties impacted by the hurricane.

August 31, 2017                 

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