FCC: Sandy-Related Cable Outages Fall 'Well Under' 20%

Cell Phone Outages Also fall; Issues Remain for Only Handful of Broadcasters

Cable video, phone and broadband outages from superstorm Sandy as of 10 a.m. (ET) Wednesday had dropped "well under" 20% of subs in the core area of the storm's impact, according to David Turetsky, chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

That is down from an average of 25% as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, when the FCC provided its first post-storm update. The FCC's emergency operations center has been manned 24/7 to provide assistance, including temporary authority for spectrum use. 

In a conference call with reporters updating the state of communications in the wake of the storm, Turetsky said the good news was that the situation was improving. The FCC had suggested Tuesday that the situation might get worse before it got better. He said be believed that the figure for cable outages in that core area, defined as 158 counties across 10 states from Virginia and Massachusetts, included both problems at the system end and power outages at consumers' end, but was checking at press time. 

Wireless outages were down "a few percentage points" -- three or four, he estimated -- from the 25% figure on Tuesday. He said that was in part because companies were bringing in backup generators and that continuing problems could be attributed to a combination of factors, including lack of power, damage to equipment of lack of connectivity to other parts of the network.

He pointed out the figures were an average, and that in New York and New Jersey the numbers would be higher and it would take longer 
to bring them down, pointing out that some plant there was still under water. 

There were only a handful of broadcast station outages, though of course power outages would affect the consumer side of that equation for all but those with battery-powered TVs.

Turetsky said that AT&T & T-Mobile had also taken the extraordinary measure of agreeing to a roaming and mobile capacity sharing agreement to try and boost their respective services. 

Following the conference, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski expressed his "deepest condolences" to those who lost loved ones to the storm, thanked first responders and said the FCC would continue to assess and respond in its aftermath,  

"Overall, the condition of our communications networks is improving, but serious outages remain, particularly in New York, New Jersey, and other hard-hit areas," he said. "We are continuing to work closely with FEMA and our other federal, state, and local partners - as well as communications companies - in response efforts. In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to expect the unexpected as the full picture of Hurricane Sandy's impact on communications networks develops. The crisis is not over. We'll continue to be intensely focused on helping with the full recovery of wired and wireless communications infrastructure."