TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Hurricane Katrina Cuts Phone Service to Millions

Hurricane Katrina Cuts Phone Service to Millions

Reuters News Wire (
Thu, 1 Sep 2005 10:10:11 -0500

Millions of people in storm-ravaged areas of the southern United
States were without telephone service on Wednesday, with flooding and
power outages from Hurricane Katrina hampering efforts to restore

BellSouth Corp., the dominant local telephone company in much of the
area, said service had been cut to about 1.75 million customers along
the Gulf Coast, from Louisiana to Florida. Spokesman Joseph Chandler
said 750,000 customers were in the hardest-hit areas of Louisiana and

Large wireless carriers also reported problems with their networks.

"A significant amount of the network is out in all of the areas
affected, especially in areas such as New Orleans," said Cingular
Wireless spokesman Ritch Blasi. "As the waters and floods subside,
we'll begin some of the restoration efforts."

With power still out in many parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, the
switches and infrastructure that runs the telecommunications networks
were operating on backup power, either batteries or generators.

Chandler said BellSouth was beginning to assess the damage to its
network in Alabama and Mississippi, but it might be some time before
it was able to reach its equipment in New Orleans. About 80 percent of
the city is under water.

Cellular companies said text messages and e-mails were more likely to
reach people on cellular phones than voice calls. Such messages are
sent as small bursts of data and can find a path to the network more
easily than a voice call, which requires a steady connection.

Some cell phone users were also able to place calls, but not receive
them, depending on which cellular towers were working.

Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Sheryl Sellaway said the company's
network was starting to improve from Tuesday. Cingular, the wireless
venture of SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth, and Verizon
Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc,
had used stores in some areas to offer free calling and phone

Sellaway said Verizon was also readying portable cellular towers to be
deployed in areas where the company had lost equipment or could not
reach it.

With hit-or-miss telephone service, many people turned to the Internet
to attempt contact relatives or friends. Several Internet sites set up
boards for people to post messages to reach relatives or swap news
about particular neighborhoods.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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