Adonis Diaries

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 Wireless Industry Resisted Calls: Why not Backing Up Cell Towers Before Sandy Storm?

 Is it a real public-safety issue? When you lose your landline in a storm, is the last way you can communicate is with your cell phone? Would you feel stranded as the cell tower goes out? 

Do you think that the reliability of wireless service in a disaster has become increasingly critical as more Americans ditch their landlines for cell phones?

After Hurricane Katrina knocked out communications along the Gulf Coast, federal regulators proposed that wireless companies have backup power at all cell towers. Do you think that was a sensible proposal?

Gerry Smith  published in the HuffPost:
Wireless Sandy Outages

A local resident charges his cell phones from a generator in the still powerless Chelsea section of Manhattan. Many wireless customers were without service this after Hurricane Sandy disrupted wireless networks.

One key factor helps explain why communities ravaged by Hurricane Sandy could not use cell phones to call for help and communicate with the outside world: mobile telephone companies have for years lobbied to kill rules that would have forced them to maintain backup power at their cell phone towers.

After Hurricane Katrina knocked out communications along the Gulf Coast, federal regulators proposed that wireless companies have backup power at all cell towers.

But the wireless industry sued to block the requirement, saying it would be a financial burden and regulators didn’t have authority to impose it. An appeals court later sided with the industry.

This week, as Sandy dealt a severe blow to the nation’s most populous region, about one in four cell towers failed, leaving thousands of customers unable to make cell phone calls for days.

The outages exposed weaknesses in wireless communications during disasters and renewed questions of whether carriers should be required to make their networks more resilient.

“The biggest issue is they have not wanted to invest the money in hardening their networks sufficiently against a catastrophic event. It’s basically left up to the industry to decide whether to put plans in place,” said Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge, a public interest group.

To prepare for hurricanes, wireless carriers say they adhere to “voluntary, industry-based best practices,” such as using portable cell towers on wheels, known as COWS, as temporary towers in areas without service. AT&T and T-Mobile allowed their customers this week to use each other’s networks in New York and New Jersey until their networks were fully restored.

But there are almost no rules on how wireless companies should respond to severe weather. While they work closely with federal agencies during storms, they are not required to file detailed emergency plans with them beforehand.

The reliability of wireless service in a disaster has become increasingly critical as more Americans ditch their landlines for cell phones. The percentage of cell phone-only households has risen from 18 percent in 2008 to 34 percent today, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Last year, the Federal Communications Comission sought public comments on how wireless providers should strengthen their systems, citing “the inadequacy of backup power” as a key reason for wireless failures during emergencies.

In comments filed with the FCC, the CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, urged regulators not to adopt regulations requiring back-up power at cell towers. Such requirements “would unnecessarily burden wireless carriers and potentially undermine the investments and network planning that have made their networks so successful.”

Most cell towers — but not all — have backup battery power, ranging from several hours to a few days, according to Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs for the CTIA. After Hurricane Sandy, the carriers relied on generators to keep the cell sites running, but expressed concern about fuel shortages.

Last fall, Connecticut State Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-Goshen), proposed a bill that would have required all cell towers in his state to be equipped with backup generators. He introduced the bill after a snowstorm knocked out power at towers near his home, leaving his cell phone useless.

“It’s a real public-safety issue,” Roraback said in an interview. “When you lose your landline in a storm, the last way you have to communicate is with your cell phone. When the cell tower goes out, you’re left with no means of communication. You’re stranded.”

The industry opposed the bill. It was later modified to require state regulators to conduct a study on how to ensure cell coverage during severe storms.

During hurricanes, wireless networks depend on more than just cell towers. They also rely on fiber or copper wires — known as “backhaul service” — and switching centers to transmit calls between towers.

This week, Verizon said that one of its key switching centers in lower Manhattan flooded, and its copper wires were damaged as well. Other wireless carriers also said their networks can become overloaded by sudden spikes in usage during emergencies.

As power returned to many areas over the weekend, wireless carriers reported that more than 95 percent of their cell towers in areas affected by the storm were working. But they remained vague about what areas still lacked cell service.

And on Sunday, some customers were still begging for connectivity, six days after the storm.

“Please send a mobile cell tower and power linkup to Long Beach, NY,” one Twitter user wrote Sunday. “It’s been decimated by Sandy. No AT&T service there, lots of need.”

For wireless customers, the question going forward is whether they can count on the industry to prevent such outages in the next hurricane, or whether regulators should create new rules to ensure that they do, Feld said.

“Are we just going to leave it to the industry that in another one of these crises they’ll invent this stuff from scratch, or do we want to tell regulators they need to actually put some standards in place?” Feld said.

“Instantaneous Expediencies” (April 30, 2009)


            We are experiencing a form of policies in the developed nations that is emulating the urges of its citizens for Instantaneous Expediencies related to desires, wishes, demands, acquisition, communication, gathering of intelligence, information, orders, and delivery around the world.  Our current development is characterized by accelerated paces in sciences, technologies, and communication, and delivery of our wishes either through the net, the phone, or airplanes within days if not seconds. If we understand that human history progressed in major three phases of change and dissemination of intelligence of the changes in science, technologies, social and political organization, traditions, and cultures then we might grasp our current problems and how to find common denominators for resolutions.


            There was a time when dissemination of information among the tribes was very slow and the changes taking place among tribes were even slower so that the world was at peace of rivalries and greed.  The next phase of settled communities in urban and agricultural regions experienced accelerated changes in many ways of progress but the dissemination of this intelligence was very slow and the identities of each region developed through traditions, customs, and myths.  By the 16th century and as the Portuguese and Spanish circumnavigated the oceans and discovered many maritime routes for trade and exploitation and met with various ethic groups then the third phase of human development occurred.  This third phase was characterized by the dissemination of ideas, sciences, and know-how progressed at a higher pace than the actual social and political changes in the European nations and thus, the world communities exhibited some kind of generalized uniformity in dwelling designs and forms of political and social organizations and structure.


            The world is faced with a bunch of catastrophic problems from financial and economical difficulties, to environmental disasters that will not spare the next generation, to the emergence of potential superpowers with larger middle classes that can afford and demand all the consumer goods that the west has enjoyed for over a century, and to extremism in religions and nationalism to name just a few.  All these cataclysmic problems require global resolutions but solutions and decisions are done on national basis as Amine Maluf stated in “A World Adrift”


            After the disintegration of the communist Soviet Union in 1989 Europe and particularly the US realized that they could dominate the World economically and militarily.  By 2001, the US Bush Junior administration of neo-conservatives could no longer resist to test the notion of Instantaneous Expediencies.  The US administration had the urge to put in practice its power of perceived world police force.  In no times, the administration delivered its summons to the European Union and the UN to adhere to the US plans of invading Iraq.  The material potentials were there but the moral value and culture of the US administration were fidgeted in another era of staunch nationalism and religious zealotry.


William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) wrote “Man has survived because he was too ignorant to know how to realize his wishes (desires).  Now that he can realize his wishes, then he must either change them or perish”.




June 2023

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