Mother Nature might be making a point to the Federal Communications Commission: You can control what you can control, but I will make the final decisions about which networks work and which don’t during natural disasters.
In light of the recent 5.9 magnitude earthquake that hit the East Coast earlier this month, the FCC said it would investigate why the wireless networks were logjammed, according to an article on CNN. But later in the week, as the country prepared for Hurricane Irene, the wireless networks seemed to hold up well, but the landline networks did not – nor did the power grid, by the way. And that is simply because no matter how much companies prepare, networks are physical things and physical things can get damaged.
As Irene was making her way up the coast, people understood that they would be without power, and that while the utility companies were doing an admirable job preparing for the imminent outages, the public understood, even though individually they would be angry if they were among the unlucky 8 millions without power. Numbers from the FCC indicated that 6,500 tower sites were impacted by the hurricane and subsequent flooding. Hard-working technicians at both utilities and wireless carriers were working to restore service as quickly as possible. The difference between the earthquake and the hurricane was that people knew the hurricane was coming and expectations were managed. The earthquake interrupted people’s lives for a much shorter period of time but came as a surprise.
In an increasingly connected world, websites performed well. “Leading fixed and mobile news websites performed admirably on Thursday and Friday before Hurricane Irene made landfall, and continued to perform well on Saturday and Sunday in both page download speed and overall reliability,” said Dan Berkowitz, senior director of corporate communications at Keynote, which monitors mobile and cloud-based networks. “The experience for people up and down the East Coast who turned to fixed and mobile websites for breaking news about the hurricane would have enjoyed fairly normal site performance and been able to access breaking news and weather information as the storm churned up the East Coast. On Thursday and Friday Keynote observed that many of the news sites did experience slowdowns, but nothing that was too terrible. Most of the sites on our index resumed normal performance on Saturday and Sunday. The site operators of these news sites should be congratulated for maintaining the levels of performance they did during this natural disaster when millions of people were turning to them and relying on them to deliver critical much needed information in a timely fashion.”