Wireless carriers are busily working to restore cell service in areas hard hit by Hurricane Ida, but power outages and flooding remain a hurdle.
Over 1 million power customers are expected to be without power for weeks. About 12.7% of cell sites in the affected area remain out of service, with the greatest outages in Louisiana, the Federal Communications Commission reported Sept. 1. The figure was down from 17.1% a day earlier and 28.1% on Aug. 30.
In Louisiana, 28.5% of cell sites in the state's impacted areas remain out of service as of Sept. 1, down from 38.1% a day earlier. Counties with more than 50% of cell sites down include Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Helena, St. James and Terrebonne. On Aug. 31, all of the 81 cell sites in Terrebonne County had been down.
Alabama and Mississippi are experiencing service disruptions of a lesser degree. On Sept. 1, Alabama had 5 cell sites down on its coast, while Mississippi had 31.
AT&T Inc. is the provider for 911 call centers in Louisiana. Emergency services in the state are currently transitioning to AT&T's ESInet Service, which aims to create more reliable, insightful emergency service calls, but outages on the network are making it impossible for many to get ahold of emergency personnel. The Orleans Parish Communication District notified the public on Aug. 30 that it was experiencing technical difficulties due to outages at AT&T. They told citizens the best way to seek help would be approaching police officers and going directly to fire stations.
According to an Aug. 31 statement from the company, 90% of AT&T Inc.'s Louisiana network was operating normally as of 9 p.m. CT. The previous day, AT&T's Louisiana service was operating at 82% normal.
On Aug. 31, Verizon Communications Inc. said site surveys to assess damage to cell sites and network facilities are ongoing while its team prioritizes search and recovery efforts.
"In downtown New Orleans and Baton Rouge, there are a few scattered cell sites experiencing issues, but the majority of Verizon customers are experiencing minimal service interruptions thanks to overlapping coverage," the statement said.
Verizon also said its teams are focused on assessment and recovery plans for the areas with gaps in coverage, which include the coastal areas of Louisiana, Thibodaux, Morgan City, Houma, Slidell, Hammond, La Place and the southern coastline of Lake Pontchartrain.
"Recovery efforts include an aggressive plan for further deployment of mobile assets to support local shelters, state and local emergency operations centers, 911 centers, hospitals, sheriff departments and fire departments," the company said in a press release. "With flooding still a significant barrier, our teams will be using highboy trailers and airboats to assist with these deployments and activations."
Verizon also stated it will focus on fiber restoration or temporary replacements for fiber using satellite links or microwave links.
As of Aug. 31, T-Mobile US Inc. services remain unavailable for some sites in the hardest-hit areas of Southeast Louisiana.
"Fortunately many [in Southeast Louisiana] continue to have coverage from adjacent sites and our engineering team is continuing to make their way to those impacted sites with generators and other emergency equipment," the company said.
T-Mobile added that the majority of its network in Ida-impacted areas continues to function normally and some areas previously experiencing outages were restored overnight on Aug. 30.