After a hurricane passes, perhaps there’s no bigger human impulse than to get in contact with loved ones in the storm zone.
Do they need anything? Are they OK? Did the house survive?
With cellphone service severed in Southwest Florida after Hurricane Ian, the silence was torture.
A Texas woman said she tried to call a friend after Ian slammed ashore on Wednesday.
“I was extremely worried because she has a diabetic son,” said the woman, Amy Sara, who asked that her last name be kept private.
Eventually, a text came through, and so did relief of contact.
“No flooding by us. No electricity or internet. Cells are very spotty.”
Internet access collapses in Southwest Florida
Internet connectivity drastically went down Wednesday afternoon in Southwest Florida as Hurricane Ian closed in, and people are still finding it difficult to call their loved ones, according to an organization that tracks network disruptions across the world.
Networks collapsed across several cities — with Port Charlotte still showing 0% connectivity Friday evening, Netblocks revealed.
That made communication by phone or social media difficult, said Isik Mater, director of research at NetBlocks.
“The metric primarily represents fixed-line internet connectivity although it reflects landline phone and cellular service to some extent,” she said. “The low figures tell us many in the impacted areas will find it difficult to communicate at present. The fall in connectivity is gradual which tells us that this isn’t just a case of telecommunication companies collapsing, but of homes and communications lines being inundated and damaged or destroyed.”
Internet access was still lingering late in the week, with several cities seeing little to no progress from the previous day.
Punta Gorda, Englewood and Cape Coral had less than 10% connectivity as of Friday evening. North Port, Venice, North Fort Myers, Fort Myers and Bonita Springs had 30% or less. Sarasota has the highest connectivity at 52%.
Millions of Floridians remained without power a day after Ian left the Sunshine State. Many face days — maybe weeks — of power outages, which could be causing spotty cellphone signals in certain areas. But there is some hope.
What are cellphone and internet providers doing?
Cellphone and internet providers are working to help the people affected by Hurricane Ian in Florida.
AT&T says it’s welcoming other carriers’ customers to roam on its networks so they can connect, even if their carrier’s service isn’t available after the storm. Once this roaming begins, customers will automatically be connected to its network.
The company is also waiving talk, text and data overage charges, including postpaid and prepaid customers with billing addresses in the 828 ZIP code across Florida through Oct. 28. Customers in these areas may still receive alerts during these dates, but accounts will reflect the credits or waived data, voice and text charges.
Verizon has prioritized restoration efforts, focusing on first responders and search and recovery efforts. The company is refueling its generators at its cell sites and network facilities until commercial power is restored. Engineers began deploying temporary mobile network equipment on Thursday, Verizon says, to provide service to police and fire departments as well as rescue teams in hard-hit areas like Marco Island in Collier County.
T-Mobile network is generally holding up well, the company said, and some of its sites are on generator power, which will maintain connectivity if there is loss of commercial power. While the majority of T-Mobile customers are on plans with unlimited talk, text and data, for those who aren’t, the company will continue to offer unlimited talk, text and data in several parts of Florida and Georgia through Oct. 3.
And Xfinity made thousands of its WiFi hotspots free of charge to everyone across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama through Oct. 5. These hotspots are located both indoors and outdoors in places like shopping districts, parks, businesses and train stations.