FCC Chairman Ajit Pai praised the efforts of the wireless communications industry in the wake of back-to-back hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Speaking to attendees of the Mobile World Congress Americas 2017 on Tuesday, Pai said the FCC, along with other federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and local agencies, monitor communications. He thanked all the agencies’ “incredible staffers on the ground.”
“It will be a long time before we’ll be able to calculate the total amount of damage inflicted by Harvey and Irma. But we already know one thing: it would have been a lot worse if it weren’t for wireless communications,” said Pai.
Wireless networks were “much more resilient” for Harvey than in some previous disasters, he noted. “About five percent of cell sites were down, as opposed to 25 percent for Hurricane Sandy. That wireless connectivity was literally a lifeline for many,” he said. Many of the more than 11,000 people rescued by the Coast Guard were found because of wireless calls. That includes one 14-year-old girl who was saved after telling Siri, “Call the Coast Guard.”
Pai was in Houston last week and saw communications technicians out in the rain and rising water, fixing service disruptions as quickly as possible. “Now, reports so far indicate that communications services in the path of Hurricane Irma have not fared as well due to staggering winds. But we’re grateful for the hard work people are doing to keep wireless networks up and running for as many people as possible.”
Published September 13, 2017