Following the emergency situations throughout the East Coast last week, it has been increasingly apparent that our nation’s digital infrastructure is essential. On Tuesday, August 23, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck outside of Washington, DC with tremors being felt as far north as Boston. Over the weekend, Hurricane Irene hit the Mid-Atlantic and caused severe problems in the Northeast. Before that, the storm had caused damage throughout Puerto Rico.
Typically, physical infrastructure and the power grid have been the greatest areas of concern following natural disasters. However, as the digital age becomes more relevant in the lives of Americans, our digital infrastructure in the form of fiber optic cables and cell towers are now equally as important. Concerns about our nation’s digital infrastructure were certainly put to the test this week in the East Coast, and for the most part, showed that our nation’s wireless networks are capable of meeting the challenges posed by natural disasters.
The New York Times reports about the overall state of wireless infrastructure following Hurricane Irene. While the electrical infrastructure did not fare as well, cell phones became even more important to those affected in Irene’s path. Those who had lost power in the storm were still able to access information and communicate with friends and family through mobile calling, Internet, and social networking.
A few more points from the article:
- Most wireless consumers did not report any disruption in service during the storm.
- The FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System received no reports of emergency call centers losing function and no major disruption in other public safety communication networks.
- 132,000 landline service subscribers were without service, mostly concentrated in Virginia and North Carolina.
- Major wireless service providers reported only minimal disruptions.
Wireless networks have proven to be an invaluable asset during emergency times. Following power outages, computers and traditional broadband networks are not as reliable as wireless service. Even traditional landline communications, which were thought to be as the most reliable form of communication during outages, have become less reliable as cordless phones and Internet based telephone service do not work without battery backups. With a sufficient charge, cellphones provide users with a viable option to communicate during emergencies.
Getting access to news, current developments, and other vital information is enhanced through wireless service, specifically mobile broadband. During emergencies, Latinos and all Americans need to have real time updates and information which mobile broadband can provide.