Pai Heads to Florida, Scolds Carriers for Hurricane Response

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai chastised wireless carriers for their response to the damage of Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle. He directed the agency’s Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau to begin an investigation, saying he’s concerned “their actions on the ground aren’t matching the urgency” Commission officials have conveyed in conversations with the carriers.

Pai joined Florida Governor Rick Scott in calling on wireless carriers to waive the bills of Floridians in these affected areas for the month of October and to allow them to change carriers without penalty. “These carriers also need to immediately disclose publicly to Floridians how they will quickly restore service,” said Pai. Scott is trying to unseat Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Bill Nelson (D) in a tight Senate race.

Chairman Pai intends to go to Florida tomorrow to assess the damage and get an update on recovery efforts from service providers and government officials working to restore communications. “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.”  

Verizon suffered “unprecedented” damage to its fiber network in parts of the Florida Panhandle. However, yesterday, the company said it restored service to sites throughout Bay County and “service has returned to the majority of Panama City Beach.” Verizon has restored its primary fiber hubs and is prepared to “quickly repair any additional fiber cuts” resulting from recovery workers clearing debris and restoring power. It plans to re-deploy portable cell sites with satellite backhaul that were temporarily serving first responders to areas still experiencing service disruptions. Verizon customers in Bay and Gulf counties, will receive three months of free mobile service.

AT&T said its networks in the affected areas are “nearly fully restored. We continue to move quickly to keep our customers, FirstNet subscribers and public safety agencies connected as they work to keep our communities safe.” AT&T is supporting communications with portable cell sites in numerous locations throughout Florida and Georgia.

Sprint extended the assistance it’s providing to impacted customers. From October 10, through October 18, Sprint will waive call, text and data overage fees.

T-Mobile said service in Bay and Gulf Counties, including Mexico Beach, has “largely been restored.” In Panama City, the carrier is waiting to get remaining sites working as soon as fiber is operational. Through the end of the month, or until service is fully restored, T-Mobile is suspending bill collections for impacted customers. It’s providing one month of free service to customers in Gulf and Bay Counties. Comments? Email us.

October 18, 2018