Wireline operators are battling to bring residents in Florida back online as quickly as possible in the wake of Hurricane Ian, but told Fierce conditions on the ground are making it hard to get to all the sites in need of repair.
According to Federal Communications Commission data, the storm knocked out wireline service for nearly 526,000 people after it made landfall on September 28. As of Friday, September 30, more than 457,000 people remained without cable or wireline telephone, TV or internet service, the agency said.
Service providers in the affected areas include AT&T, Lumen Technologies (CenturyLink), Comcast and Charter Communications.
A Lumen representative told Fierce approximately 315,000 of its customers lost their home internet service while around 40,000 had home phone disruptions. The representative said it was dispatching technicians to repair outages, but noted “downed power lines and flooding are impacting some restoration efforts.” Additionally, the representative said some of its network locations are still using generator and battery power since commercial power remains out across a large portion of the state.
As of Friday afternoon, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported more than 1.7 million electric customers in Florida remained without power. By Monday, Reuters reported nearly 600,000 residents were still in the dark.
An AT&T representative told Fierce it had only “limited” wireline outages in the state following the hurricane. But in a post on its disaster recovery site, the operator said widespread power outages were making it a challenge to restore those affected.
“Where it is safe to do so, we are deploying additional backup power to our wireline facilities and refueling generators as needed,” it said in the post. “All of our major network facilities continue to remain online, however some are currently running on a backup power source.”
In an update posted to its disaster recovery website on Sunday, AT&T stated 69% of customers with known outages have had their service restored.
A Charter representative told Fierce it doesn't provide service in the areas hardest hit (Lee, Charlotte and De Soto Counties) by Hurricane Ian but it does serve other parts of the state. The representative said for Charter outages have been primarily caused by a loss of power.
"It’s important for customers to know that in cases of network damage, power restoration is the priority, and there are times we cannot immediately gain access to repair sites," the representative said. In some cases that's because of flooding while in others Charter has to wait "until the power company completes its work and declares the site safe."
Comcast could not immediately be reached for comment late Friday afternoon. Fierce will update this story it responds.
After moving east across Florida, Hurricane Ian swung back to the west to make landfall in South Carolina on Friday. AT&T noted its teams were preparing to respond there as well.
This story has been updated to include comments from Charter.