Hurricane Sandy Disrupts Northeast Telecom Networks


Power outages and flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy disrupted telecommunications services on Tuesday resulting in spotty coverage for cellphones, home telephones and Internet services.

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Verizon Communications, which serves many of the states in the hurricane's path, a ppeared to have suffered some of the worst damage from the storm.

The company said that storm surge resulted in flooding at several Verizon central offices that hold telecom equipment in Lower Manhattan, Queens, and Long Island "causing power failures and rendering back-up power systems at these sites inoperable."

It did not give an estimate as to how many people were affected but said that customers served by these central offices will experience "a loss of all services" including television, Internet, and traditional telephone services.

It said that some customers may experience intermittent busy signals for non-emergency calls.

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"I think, everybody's equipment's going to be damaged including cellphone towers," Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher King said from his Verizon Wireless cellphone in Baltimore, Maryland.

"Particularly for Verizon, they're clearly going to have the most damage on the wireline side because its pretty much all of their territory (where the storm hit)," King said.

Verizon said that its engineers were on site from the early hours and were still trying to assess the da mage late morning on Tuesday. Outside of New York, the company warned that it was also having some trouble.

"Verizon is discovering that many poles and power lines/Verizon cables are down throughout the region due to heavy winds and falling trees," the company said in a statement.

Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. mobile provider said it was seeing outages at some cell sites because of the power outages across all the states in Sandy's path including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Maryland, North Virginia and New England.

"(Repair crews) have started on some critical areas but they haven't been able to get to everywhere they need to be," spokeswoman Crystal Davis said. She noted that 80 of the company's stores would reopen at noon. Sprint had closed about 180 stores ahead of the storm.

T-Mobile USA said that "customers may be experiencing service disruptions or an inability to access service in some areas, especially those that were hardest hit by the storm. "

People complained of outages to their cable telephone, Internet and television services from providers ranging from Comcast Corp, Cablevision Systems Corp and Verizon in New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York.

Cablevision said it was experiencing widespread service interruptions primarily related to loss of power. The company said it is working to restore services.

Comcast , whose headquarters is in Philadelphia and serves East C o ast states, s aid it was still assessing the impact of the storm on its service.

Cellphone service also appeared to be spotty for other top wireless providers Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc and T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom, according to some customers. Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group.

AT&T said it was experiencing some issues in areas heavily affected by the storm. By Tuesday morning spokesman Mark Siegel said it was in the initial stages of on-the-ground assessment and expected "crews will be working around the clock to restore service."

Verizon Wireless said it was assessing the situation on Tuesday morning.

Several Time Warner Cable customers in Brooklyn said that their Internet, television and phone services stopped working Monday night but were back again by Tuesday morning.

Time Warner Cable said that while it has not seen any major damage to its infrastructure, its customers who do no have electricity do not have cable services.

Millions of people in the eastern United States awoke on Tuesday to flooded homes, fallen trees and widespread power outages caused by Sandy, which swamped New York City's subway system and submerged streets in Manhattan's financial district.

At least 15 people were reported killed in the United States by one of the biggest storms to ever hit the country. Sandy dropped just below hurricane status before making landfall on Monday night in New Jersey.