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Broadcast Lobby Ballyhoos Wireless Network Outages

WASHINGTON: Tuesday’s 5.8 earthquake jammed up cellphone networks long enough for the National Association of Broadcasters to make hay of it.

“Policymakers debating spectrum policy ought to take note that the one reliable communications service during today’s earthquake was the original wireless technology--free and local broadcasting,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said in a statement.

Wharton later noted that the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency issued a statement of its own after the quake telling people to “stay tuned to radio and TV news updates.”

Verizon and AT&T Wireless, the two biggest carriers in the United States, both confirmed outages, according to RCR Wireless. Both said the disruptions were due to the volume of calls being made. T-Mobile also experienced congestion. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security cited the overload and requested that members of the public use email or text to communicate in the aftermath of the quake to assure network availability for emergency officials. First responders have priority on cell and landline networks during emergencies.

The lobby representing cellphone service providers--CTIA-The Wireless Association, said the industry’s infrastructure appeared to be intact, but that call volume was higher than normal.

“It’s easy to get dazzled by iPads and Smartphones,” Wharton said. “But all the spectrum in the world won’t ensure reliability of the one-to-one cellphone network architecture during an emergency. When there’s a crisis, it hard to replicate the reliability of the one-to-everyone local radio and TV broadcast signal.”
~ Deborah D. McAdams

Editor's Note: Though RCR Wireless said it confirmed outages with AT&T and Verizon, an AT&T spokesman emailed TVB saying the carrier "did not report any outages yesterday. We made clear in our public statements that our wireless network was undamaged by the earthquake. Not surprisingly, then number of calls increased dramatically and as a result, we experienced some congestion, which quickly abated. But once again, there were no outages."