- Major cell service providers have begun restoration work in the hardest-hit areas of southwest Florida amid Hurricane Ian’s path of destruction
- Several carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, have utilized satellite and mobile response technology to begin initial repairs to service lines
- T-Mobile deployed four Community Support Trucks containing supplies just outside of affected areas. The trucks will assist in enhancing Wi-Fi accessibility to be used by residents and responders
Major cell providers including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are taking various measures to restore cell service to southwest Florida and other affected areas by Hurricane Ian’s landfall.
Verizon states that despite much of the storm-impacted area remaining in service, southwest areas of Lee and Charlotte counties extending west towards Lake Okeechobee are experiencing outages.
Amid significant flooding, Verizon deployed satellite technology to replace damaged fiber to cell sites in Ft. Myers. Further, the company is utilizing satellite-supported temporary cell sites in Arcadia, Cape Coral, Ft. Myers, Marco Island, and North Port.
Verizon’s crisis response team is also assisting public safety agencies responding to the disaster by setting up portable cell sites, Wi-Fi hotspots, and free charging stations.
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AT&T has dispatched 180 of its own repair crews across the state to expedite the restoration process. The provider is also allowing customers of other carriers the ability to use its networks, even if their carrier’s service isn’t available after the storm, ostensibly enabling automatic connection to AT&T towers for those without service.
AT&T is additionally dropping voice, text, and data surplus charges for storm-affected users. Customers in upwards of 800 affected Florida ZIP codes are covered under the program extending through most of October.
SatCOLTs (Satellite Cell on Light Trucks) are in transit to DeSoto, Hardee, Lee, and Sarasota counties, with sites already on-air in Charlotte, Collier, Hendry, Lee, and Sarasota counties.
As of Friday afternoon, T-Mobile reports that most of its localized network across south and central Florida is active and stable. Response teams are on the ground to check sites, refuel generators and add emergency equipment as needed to maintain network stability.
Though some sites are running via power generators, particularly in Lee, DeSoto, and Charlotte counties, restoration of normal operational capacity is expected to return as ground conditions improve.
According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, T-Mobile has four Community Support Trucks loaded with supplies including chargers, charging cords, and cell phones, as well as three Wi-Fi trailers with the ability to charge up to 80 phones each. The governor stated in a press conference that these assets are staged just outside of the impact area and will be deployed as soon as it is safe to do so.
Statewide, 100 portable cell phone towers have been deployed in the area to support connectivity in Southwest Florida. The Division of Telecommunications is engaged with law enforcement with aerial and drone assessments and continues to work with telecom partners to ensure that the state’s communications networks have redundancies and remain operational for first responders to respond to Floridians during the recovery.