Consumers in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy may not get wired phone, Internet and video service back for as long as two weeks, Verizon Communications warned on Friday, while the FCC reported continued slow progress by carriers in restoring mobile coverage.
The wired service outages could include the company's high-speed FiOS fiber-optic service as well as data and voice services over copper lines, Verizon spokesman Alberto Canal said. Verizon can't restore many of its services in areas that still don't have commercial power, he said. For safety reasons, the carrier's crews have to wait until power cables are placed before bringing communications back, he said.
Friday's time estimate by Verizon, the incumbent wireline carrier based in New York, was its longest yet. Though service is steadily being restored, the deadly storm that made landfall late Monday with ferocious winds, rain and floods has proved also to be a lingering communications catastrophe for residents of some areas.
Verizon's own headquarters suffered major flooding, though that building and four other facilities in lower Manhattan and Long Island have been brought back online with emergency power. The carrier's crews are working around the clock to restore backup power to several other flooded sites in lower Manhattan and Queens.
Mobile service also is coming back slowly. As of 10 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday, 15% of cell sites were still out of action, according to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. That's an improvement from 19% of sites down on Thursday morning.
The new figure is slightly more positive than it seems, because the agency has tightened the region in which it's estimating mobile outages. The Friday report covers 146 counties in seven states. The FCC is no longer collecting data from Delaware, Massachusetts or Rhode Island because it says service in those states has been largely restored.
In that same seven-state area, 17% of cable subscribers were without service, higher than the 12-14% reported on Thursday across the larger region. The new figures also incorporated the first report from a cable provider serving hard-hit areas, the FCC said.
The agency said carriers are reporting improvements in the availability of fuel for generators bringing emergency power to communications gear.
All the major mobile operators say they are deploying emergency cell sites on wheels to serve areas without coverage, with some of those sites offering facilities for local residents to charge their phones.
Verizon's mobile arm, Verizon Wireless, said 97% of its cell sites throughout storm-hit areas of the Northeast were operational as of Friday morning. It said coverage was approaching pre-storm levels in most areas. In hard-hit areas such as lower Manhattan, coverage was below normal levels but was good, the company said.