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Rita disruption relatively minor

Although Hurricane Rita did do serious damage to some coastal communities in Louisiana and Texas, the telephone networks in those areas stood up well, without nearly the infrastructure damage suffered in the earlier Hurricane Katrina.

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BellSouth,SBC Communications and Verizon all said they were still assessing total damages on Monday. An SBC spokesman said that outages to that company’s network were “limited and local in nature,” and confined to areas in direct path of Hurricane Rita.

BellSouth was estimating 183,000 customer lines still potentially affected by Rita on Monday, down from 566,000 lines on Sunday. But those totals reflect all lines served by Central Offices in areas where commercial power is no longer available.

“We didn’t lose any COs,” a BellSouth spokesman said Monday. “We show these lines as being affected because it’s not business as usual. That doesn’t mean all those lines are out. We’ve had very few actual trouble reports, but since so many people in the affected areas were evacuated, that’s not an accurate number either.”

Verizon said about 3000 lines were affected in the Texas cities of Baytown, Dickinson, League City, Willis, Kilgore, Jacksonville, Henderson and Whitehouse. As with the other telcos, Verizon kept its COs running on backup generators and batteries.

SBC had moved in generators and topped off tanks with diesel fuel in anticipation of Rita, the spokesman said. Wireless service providers experienced some outages in the hardest hit areas, including Beamont, Galveston, Port Charles and smart parts of southern Houston, all in Texas; as well as Lake Charles, Lafayette and Opelousas, La. As with the wireline networks, however, the infrastructure damage was limited, most of the networks continued to work and many service outages stemmed from loss of commercial power.

Cingular, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless all said their networks were largely operational, if sometimes overwhelmed by traffic volumes. The carriers were each working to get retail stores open as commercial power became available. T-Mobile said it was moving cellular base stations on wheels, called COWs, in to handle the expected boom in traffic as evacuees make their way home. The company was also offering free WiFi hot spots.

BellSouth continues to work on restoring service to the areas devasted by Hurricane Katrina. The company announced that it is sending 1,404 additional workers from its other units to work on restoring service to coast Louisiana and Mississippi, and in New Orleans.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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