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FCC urges mobile carriers to waive bills of customers impacted by hurricane

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FCC urges mobile carriers to waive bills of customers impacted by hurricane

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has joined Florida Gov. Rick Scott in urging wireless carriers to waive the bills of customers living in areas affected by Hurricane Michael for the month of October.

In an Oct. 16 statement, Pai also urged carriers to allow affected customers to switch carriers without early termination fees.

"While the FCC has been in regular contact with companies serving the impacted areas, I'm concerned that their actions on the ground aren't matching the urgency that we have conveyed during those conversations," Pai said.

The wireless carriers need to inform the citizens of Florida, as soon as possible, how soon the services will be restored, he said, adding he instructed the commission's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to start an investigation on the matter.

Communications providers are working to restore services, but progress is hindered by storm debris, power outages and significant fiber damage in the most devastated counties. Looking at the amount of damage in the area and considering ongoing power outages, it could be weeks before services are restored.

As of Oct. 14, a number of counties along the Florida Panhandle had more than half of their cell sites down, including Bay County — home of Panama City and Mexico Beach, described as "ground zero" of the storm by U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long — where 66.1% of cell sites were down. Additionally, neighboring Gulf County had 69.6% of cell sites down, according to FCC data.