Cell-Phone, Internet Service Crippled by Hurricane Sandy

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Hurricane Sandy's high winds, flooding and, in some cases, snow and ice have crippled cellular connections in 10 states from Virginia to Massachusetts.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says Sandy has affected 25% of all cellular phone service, from providers like Verizon (VZ) , AT&T (T) , Sprint (S) , T-Mobile and others, in more than 150 East Coast counties.

And that's not all that was affected by the storm. In addition to mobile voice and data services, cellular towers also handle cable television and broadband Internet relay services.

In a conversation with CNet, Genachowski also predicted that the situation will get worse before improving. Cell towers are powered by local electricity companies. When power was lost, cell towers were forced to rely on backup batteries to keep communications going. But as those batteries drain without any way to recharge, more cell phones will be forced out of service.

As might be expected, cellular outages are more numerous in areas suffering the worst storm damage. The FCC estimates it will take days, maybe weeks, to fix all the damage -- depending on how quickly local power companies can make repairs.

Genachowski noted that telephone landline service was much less hurt by the storm. That's because old-fashioned, wired home telephone service (now referred to as POTS -- Plain Old Telephone Service) does not rely on local power grids for electricity. The service is self-powered and can remain operational when other means of communication cannot. In Lower Manhattan, after the 9/11 attacks, wired telephones still provided dial tones even when no other utilities were available.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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