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FCC disappointed with US carriers' response to Hurricane Michael
- FCC chairman Ajit Pai is not thrilled with the U.S. carriers’ slow restoration of their service in areas affected by Hurricane Michael.
- Florida governor Rick Scott specifically called out Verizon for misleading customers with its network restoration progress.
- All four major U.S. carriers offer bill credits, free service, or waived overage fees to customers in affected areas.
Even though Hurricane Michael is now a memory, its effects are still being met as the death toll continues to climb and power continues to be nonexistent in many neighborhoods. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint experienced network outages of their own and continue to increase efforts to restore their networks. However, those efforts might not be enough to satisfy the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In a recent statement, FCC chairman Ajit Pai slammed U.S. carriers for their slow efforts to restore service in areas affected by Hurricane Michael. Pai called the lack of full cellular service “completely unacceptable” and said the FCC will open an investigation into each of the carrier’s post-hurricane restoration efforts.
(1) The slow progress in restoring wireless service in areas near #HurricaneMichael‘s landfall is completely unacceptable. I’m joining @FLGovScott in calling on wireless carriers to waive October bills for those in affected areas & to let them to change carriers without penalty. pic.twitter.com/6ezCcmob70— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) October 16, 2018
Pai also called on U.S. carriers to waive the bills of Florida residents in affected areas for October. Pai did not name any carriers in his statement, but we can guess that at least the four major carriers are the target of his wrath.
In a statement of his own, Florida governor Rick Scott specifically criticized Verizon and said the carrier misled the public with the statistic that 98 percent of Florida has service. Pai and Scott called for carriers to not penalize Florida residents who want to switch carriers in the wake of Hurricane Michael.
The carriers respond
In an email, Verizon said it will offer three months of free service to “every Verizon customer in Bay and Gulf counties.” On its network update page, Verizon also mentioned that it brought two new cell sites in service overnight and will deploy a new mobile cell site today. The carrier also set up two new charging stations for local shelters, but did not say when it expects to fully restore service.
AT&T, meanwhile, said it offers bill credits to customers in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Liberty, Taylor, and Wakulla counties. AT&T will continue to offer credits through October 21 and said service is “nearly fully restored in most affected areas.” AT&T also did not say when it expects to completely restore service.
On its Hurricane Michael update page, T-Mobile said service in North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia are “almost fully recovered.” However, sites on the Florida Panhandle “will likely experience a longer recovery timeline.” T-Mobile did not provide that timeline on the website, though it offers certain Florida and George residents free calling, texting, and data if they are not already on an unlimited plan and are active postpaid or prepaid customers.
Finally, Sprint said it will waive call, text, and data overage fees between October 10 and October 18. The carrier also announced it provides 25 handsets and/or hotspots to any state or local government agency impacted by Hurricane Michael. Sprint did not say what progress on service restoration currently looks like, however.