Major carriers bracing for impact of Hurricane Florence

In the United States, Virginia and the Carolinas are the first in line to be pummeled with several inches of rain and high-speed winds by Hurricane Florence, a category 2 storm. Government agencies and news organizations have been warning citizens to evacuate if they can and, if they can’t, to seek fortified shelter on high ground.

For the people who remain and the first responders that will serve for the duration of the event, wireless internet infrastructure will be key to keeping everyone involved informed minute by minute. Part of residents’ storm readiness checklists should have included power packs, extra batteries and water-tight storage units to keep phones on and safe from storm surge.

The nation’s four major carriers have outlined what they’re doing in the region from deploying mobile cell sites to sandbagging and monitoring of static sites to make sure the lights are on.

AT&T is putting into action its new FirstNet network layer — which allocates spectrum specifically for emergency service workers. The company has made hay out of a recent debacle about how Verizon upcharged a California fire department for unthrottled data.

“Only lifting [data speed] limitations for first responders in a few states is a half-hearted gesture that does nothing for the thousands of first responders who will travel long miles to help those affect,” AT&T says. “That’s why FirstNet does not throttle subscribers anywhere in the country. Period.”

As of this post, the carrier has closed 18 of its retail stores along the shoreline from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, down to Jacksonville, North Carolina, and as far inland as the Research Triangle in North Carolina.

AT&T postpaid and prepaid customers “in area most affected by Hurricane Florence” will receive unlimited talk, text and data for the time being.

Sprint has laid out a zero-charge period for customers in the three states beginning September 12 and ending Septembeer 25. Unlimited plan holders will continue to receive service while those still on limited tiers will not be charged for calls, texts or data overages.

T-Mobile has decided to keep as many stores open as possible as Florence moves onshore to help dislocated staff as well as customers. Water, mobile generators, charging stations and chargers will either be free to use or stocked for quick purchase.

Verizon has opted to lift data speed restrictions to public safety clients in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Roving teams will be giving out hotspots and phones to first responders throughout the storm.

All of the wireless companies are urging people to donate to the American Red Cross by texting “FLORENCE” to 90999. A $10 charge will be applied to customers’ next bills.

Customers are advised to text friends and relatives from or to the three-state region or, if they really have to make a call, to keep it short and limit bandwidth use.

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.