How Wireless Carriers Fared During Hurricane Harvey

September 5, 2017

Reprinted from CNET

Wireless networks held up better than in previous disasters, but critics say more needs to be done to ensure people can get a signal in hard-hit areas.

Cellular service held up better during Harvey than in past storms, which is surprising given the scope and size of the disaster. Harvey devastated hundreds of miles of coastline from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana. The flooding covers an area that’s roughly the size of Lake Michigan and is home to more than 4.5 million people. A week after the storm first made landfall in Texas, waters are receding, but some roads are still impassable.

Not every area’s cell coverage fared well. In the four counties along the Texas Gulf Coast where the hurricane first made landfall, there were significant outages, leaving tens of thousands of people without phone service. Last weekend in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, Aransas County in Texas reported nearly 95 percent of its cell towers were out of commission, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Just 4 percent of the 7,804 cell sites in Harvey’s path experienced outages during the storm, according to the FCC. That’s less than 400 cell towers.

“For a disaster of this scope, to only have 4 percent of cell sites go down is really amazing in some ways,” said Jamie Barnett, a partner at law firm Venable and a former chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.


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