12:40 PM

FCC Pushing Carriers To Fix Nets Destroyed By Katrina

The Federal Communications Commission is responding to critics who say the federal government responded to the catastrophe too slowly.

WASHINGTON — Responding to mounting criticism, the Federal Communications Commission issued a statement Tuesday (Sept. 6) reiterating that it is working with communications providers to restore networks destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Federal officials have been harshly criticized for failing to respond promptly to the catastrophic storm that destroyed New Orleans and devastated the Gulf Coast. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco late last week blasted carriers for failing to restore communications across the state.

In a joint statement, FCC commissioners said the agency "has been in continual contact with the industry and has taken prompt action, where necessary, to provide regulatory relief to facilitate restoration efforts." It cited efforts to deploy alternative communications networks in the Gulf region to speed the efforts.

"We have also assisted in performing coordination activities between the industry and federal emergency authorities as appropriate," the agency said. "We will continue doing everything within our power to ensure the vitality of the nation's communications network. We are confident that all service providers will do the same."

Emergency personnel in the region said some regular phone service had been restored over the weekend in areas like Jackson, Miss., which is about 150 miles inland from the Gulf Coast. However, one official said Saturday (Sept. 3) that only incoming calls were getting through and that most residents were still unable to place outgoing calls.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that cellular and other communications networks were completely destroyed by the hurricane and that emergency personnel were working with ultilities to restore service.

The disaster has also highlighted long-standing complaints of a lack of spectrum for emergency communications and interoperable equipment. One expert said federal, state and local officials also were guilty of a "gross oversight" for relying on fixed communications networks to coordinate relief efforts. Portable RF systems with portable generators should have been used for emergency communications, the source said.

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