Mobile and internet carriers are making progress in fully restoring communications and services for residents of counties affected by Hurricane Ian following the storm that tore through much of Southwest Florida on September 28 .
Major carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Frontier, say employees at their companies are working as quickly as possible to restore connections for residents who want to reach family and friends or get back to business.
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AT&T restores nearly 80% of its service
According to spokeswoman Rosie Montalvo, AT&T continues to open its network to other wireless carriers at no charge while they restore service to customers.
“Our priority remains keeping our customers connected, and we know that need is even greater before, during and after any major storm,” Montalvo said. “There are no known impacts to wireline service in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties at this time,”
As of Tuesday, nearly 80% of AT&T wireline customers in affected Florida counties had service restored, Montalvo said.
AT&T has notified wireless customers in affected areas of the state that all cellular services — including calls, texts, and data overage charges — have been waived through October 28, 2022.
AT&T released a statement via email Tuesday morning outlining the continued efforts of its crews and overall support during and after Ian:
“Our crews are working as quickly as possible to restore service to the hardest hit areas, including Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties…We have one of the largest disaster response programs and the most advanced in the industry and we are deploying generators and other recovery equipment to affected areas, as conditions allow,” the statement read.
On October 1, AT&T and FirstNet loaded a portable cell site onto a helicopter to facilitate communications on Pine Island, near the devastated community of Sanibel, where residents were stranded. The device, known as a Rapid Deployable Compact, or CRD, provides wireless service to first responders and Wi-Fi to residents in the affected area of Lee County.
Verizon Communications Centers Open in Southwest Florida
Verizon’s Wireless Emergency Communications Centers are providing free charging, Wi-Fi and portable power supplies to the community hardest hit by Hurricane Ian.
The centers, which opened this week in Lee and Charlotte counties, provide free charging, free Wi-Fi and portable power packs to any member of the community on any carrier, said Tuesday morning Verizon officials.
Residents looking for cellular and internet service can get both at two of Verizon’s centers at the Port Charlotte Town Center Mall, located at 1441 Tamiami Trail. Customers in need can visit the communication center daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A second communications center has been opened for Fort Myers Beach residents, located at 2525 Estero Blvd. Residents and clients can access the communication center daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Ian,” said Shawn Alexander, vice president of consumer affairs at Verizon. “We hope this offering will give our customers one less thing to worry about so they can focus on their safety.”
Consumers and small businesses in Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Hardee, Sarasota and Lee counties will continue to receive unlimited calls, texts and data through Oct. 11, 2022, Verizon officials announced Tuesday.
In Sarasota and Desoto counties on Tuesday, Verizon engineers continue to move communications sites from temporary satellite connections to more permanent connections by restoring fiber cables. According to Verizon, engineers restored a cell site on Sanibel Island using satellite connections and portable generators.
Verizon did not provide a timeline for a full restoration Tuesday morning.
Frontier continues to restore service
Frontier vice president of communications Chrissy Murray said the company’s emergency center was launched to help residents and consumers stay connected in the aftermath of the hurricane. According to Frontier, a “rigorous damage assessment” is underway in the affected areas where Frontier employees have been allowed to enter.
“While power outages and damage to some of our overhead lines have caused what is expected to be a short-term disruption of service to our customers, we anticipate a significant reduction in issues as power is restored,” he said. said Murray. “We are reviewing and augmenting our strategy in real time based on these assessments and have a workforce to support and repair once conditions are safe to do so.”
Frontier’s underground fiber optic system, Murray said, was critical to keeping many customers connected and helped reduce impact and damage to Frontier’s network.
A restoration percentage or projected timeline for the full restoration of Frontier’s services could not be provided by the company spokesperson.
Comcast faces ‘extensive’ restoration in SWFL
Extensive restoration work continues daily across Florida with more than 1,100 technicians removing the damaged network and placing state-of-the-art fiber optic cable and new electronics to reactivate and restore Xfinity services for customers.
Xfinity WiFi Vans are available at the following locations daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.:
Residents of Collier County can enjoy free cell service and Wi-Fi at the Veterans Community Park located at 1895 Veterans Park Drive in Naples. In Lee County, Xfinity WiFi Vans are located at Hertz Arena (11000 Everblades Parkway) in Estero and Fleamasters Flea Market (4135 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive) in Fort Myers. Charlotte County residents can visit and use the Xfinity Wi-Fi Van in the Walmart Supercenter lot (19100 Murdock Circle) in Port Charlotte.
Comcast Florida Area Vice President of Public Relations Mindy Kramer said Tuesday morning that the chief engineer and his team were working and restoring service to affected areas on time.
“Our crews have already repaired and reconnected nearly a thousand drop points — the lines that connect homes and neighborhoods to our network,” Kramer said. “This has helped us restore services for tens of thousands of affected customers to date. We are doing everything we can to restore services in places where power has now been restored.”
Additionally, Comcast this week committed $1 million in cash and in-kind contributions to the Florida Disaster Fund that will help support Southwest and Central Florida food banks, United Way and the American Red Cross.
Before Hurricane Ian made landfall, Comcast had opened about 90,000 public Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots in central, north and southwest Florida. Additionally, Comcast this week launched Xfinity Wi-Fi vans in affected areas to help customers and residents with service needs.
A restore percentage or projected timeline for the full restoration of Comcast’s services could not be provided by the company’s spokesperson.
Spectrum Restores Over 90% of Clients So Far
Spectrum Communications, which serves part of Lakewood Ranch and has a presence in Sarasota and Manatee counties, reports a 92% restoration of service to its customers since Sept. 29.
Information on the Spectrum website indicates that restoration can be expected in North Manatee County by October 6, South Manatee by October 7, and affected areas below Manatee County. in southwest Florida by October 11.
Spectrum spokesman Joe Durkin could not be reached for comment before press time.
Samantha Gholar covers social justice news for the Herald-Tribune and USA TODAY Network. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @samanthagholar
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