For AT&T and Verizon, the hurricane/tropical storm in southeast Texas represents the first natural disaster since the two commercial carriers made very public commitments that their networks should carry mission-critical communications for first responders—AT&T as the nationwide contractor for FirstNet and Verizon with plans to also build a dedicated LTE core to support public safety.

“We continue to evaluate the effects from Hurricane Harvey, but overall our networks in South Texas continue to perform well so far,” according to an AT&T statement issued yesterday. “In Houston, historic flooding has affected wireline services for some customers, in addition to some wireless and wireline services in the areas around Corpus Christi, Victoria and South Houston that have been affected by power outages and other storm damage. 

“Our technicians are working to restore service to affected areas as quickly and safely as conditions allow. We have also deployed seven portable cell sites, two charging stations and an emergency-communications vehicle in South Texas, and additional resources are arriving soon. We are monitoring our network closely and are coordinating with emergency-management officials and local utility companies.”

Verizon also stated that the carrier has worked to overcome challenges inherent in the aftermath of Harvey.

“Verizon’s network continues to perform well throughout the storm’s impacted area,” according to a Verizon statement yesterday. “As anticipated, commercial power is out in many places throughout Texas, but back-up generators are running and refueling vendors are on standby to ensure facilities continue operating. 

“Our network teams and vendor partners are staffing the 24x7 wireless command center, assessing damage and mobilizing equipment and people needed for repairs. We are in contact with federal, state and local emergency management teams and are coordinating communication needs and efforts with them.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday offered the following assessment of the communications situation in southeast Texas.

“To date, the storm has most severely impacted communications networks near where Harvey made landfall,” Pai said in a prepared statement. “In Aransas, Calhoun, and Refugio Counties, for instance, most wireless cell sites are currently out of operation.  We are also keeping close tabs on the effect that widespread flooding could have on communications networks in Harris County and surrounding areas in the hours and days to come.

“The worst of tragedies brings out the best in people.  In Harvey’s wake, first responders and everyday citizens have heroically stepped up to the plate to help their fellow Americans.  Broadcasters and other news outlets have also played a critical role in conveying emergency information, and in some cases, even coordinating live, on-air rescues.  Everyone who is pitching in deserves our gratitude and support.  We’re all in this together.”