Intermittent cell phone service prompts extra help with coverage - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Intermittent cell phone service prompts extra help with coverage across Louisiana

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Cell phone coverage has been an issue as thousands across south Louisiana deal with rising floodwaters and historic flooding.

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, AUG. 17 - 2 P.M. - (From Lance M. Skelly, director of communications for global media relations for AT&T): 

First and foremost, I feel it is really important at this point to make clear that our switching center, which is located OUTSIDE of the 500 year flood plain, has never flooded since opening in 1987.

This historic rain and flood event changed that dramatically.

We’re seeing heavier than normal call volumes on our network in the Baton Rouge area as residents are recovering from the severe  flooding and we recommend texting when possible as it uses fewer network resources than calling.

By rerouting traffic, we restored wireless service early Monday morning for a vast majority of our customers and our disaster response teams continue working around the clock to resolve remaining storm-related service issues.

  • Timing: By rerouting traffic, we restored a vast majority of wireless service within 24 hours of our switch flooding. We are working around the clock to resolve the remaining affected sites.
  • Wireline: We have a limited number of wireline customers affected by the flooding damage and continue working to resolve those issues as soon as possible.
  • Facility (as mentioned above): Our flooded switching center is located outside of the 500-year flood plain and since opening in 1987 has never experienced (UNTIL NOW) flood damage, even during Hurricane Katrina.
  • NDR equipment: Our Network Disaster Recovery team has deployed more than 10 satellite Cell on Light Trucks (COLTs) and Emergency Communications Vehicles, plus a mobile command center, from several warehouses across the country to aid wireless service for emergency management officials and help with network capacity where needed.  This equipment is positioned around the Baton Rouge area to provide additional cell coverage where it’s needed most. Because the equipment is mobile, it can be moved around the area as needed.
  • Retail Stores: Our area stores are also supporting the community in a number of ways – offering customers and non–customers charging and use of phones to update friends and loved ones.

Verizon tweeted out that the company would have four locations across the state that would help any person who came into the stores no matter whether or not they are a Verizon customer. 

Many people with AT&T cell phones woke up Sunday morning to no cellular service. As of Sunday evening, service has been returned for some customers, but AT&T officials said crews are still working to restore service completely. 

As of 2 p.m. Monday, AT&T offered the following update:

Wireless service has been restored for the vast majority of our customers as of early today.

We are working around the clock to complete our repairs associated with the flooding of our Baton Rouge wireless switching center. Also, we are deploying additional equipment to aid emergency personnel.

Outages were reported in several areas across metro Baton Rouge. There are customers with AT&T phones who still have service while others have none. 

In a recorded message, AT&T said it is experiencing "technical difficulties in the Baton Rouge area" and work is underway to resolve the problem. 

Lance Skelly, AT&T Director of Communications, stated that one of the company's "switching centers that carriers network traffic in the Baton Rouge area is flooded due to severe weather." 

"Our restoration work continues around the clock to restore service for affected customers after our mobility switching center in Baton Rouge flooded during severe weather," Skelly said. "As progress is made during these efforts, service will return for some customers and others may continue to experience intermittent service." 

The company deployed resources to restore affected wireless services as quickly as possible. That included generators, Cell on Light Trucks (COLTs) and Emergency Communications Vehicles (ECVs). 

Skelly added that technicians and other resources are prepared for additional restoration work once they can safely access damaged areas. 

"We are monitoring our network closely and will continue to coordinate with local officials and utility companies," Skelly said. "We recommend customers text before calling when possible and utilize Wi-Fi where service is available." 

Louisiana State Police worked with AT&T to try and put up 11 additional towers to help with communication. 

"They're gonna be put out in the Livingston - Denham Springs area, Baton Rouge, north Baton Rouge," said Col. Mike Edmonson with LSP. "There putting one at Southern University, one on LSU's campus. One in Livingston at the Emergency Operation Center through that area. One near the airport for the Emergency Operation Center in East Baton Rouge Parish, Celtic Studios, Ascension Parish is gonna have one, and two in the downtown area, and one over here at the GOSHEP to make sure we can maintain communication in those areas." 

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