Can you hear me now? Post-Irma cell coverage spotty – Miami Herald

If you’re wondering why your cellphone coverage is nonexistent or spotty, you can first blame Hurricane Irma and then your service providers.

Irma, who seems long gone after tearing up the southern half of the state over the weekend, probably can’t help you much.

As for the wireless providers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile — they’re scrambling to restore your connections but have the same power-outage problems you do.

Almost all cell sites in the Keys and other parts of Irma-ravaged Monroe County are not working, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s report issued Tuesday on provider service. About 40 percent of all sites in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and even more in parts of Southwest Florida are not functioning, the report said.

“It’s going to be a long recovery,” T-Mobile spokeswoman Stacey DiNuzzo said Tuesday, faulting power outages in many parts of the state. “As the power is restored, the recovery will move faster.”

Three of Florida’s four major cellphone-service providers said Tuesday that from 70 percent to 90 percent of their towers and antennae systems are up and running. But those reported percentages are for the entire state — not the most storm-damaged areas, such as the Florida Keys, Miami-Dade and Naples.

The four providers said they could not break down the number of cell sites that are out of service in South Florida. Yet, they supplied site numbers for every county in Florida for the FCC’s “snapshot” reports in the aftermath of the storm. The FCC reports provide the number breakdown by county but do not include providers’ names.

Verizon boasted the highest number of functional cell sites statewide — 90 percent — saying many “are running on backup power” and that others without power are getting “massive refueling operations.”

T-Mobile’s DiNuzzo said 80 percent of the company’s cell sites statewide are operational.

In a statement, the company said it’s “really difficult” to break down the loss of cell service by area because “there are some towers, especially in South Florida, that we still haven’t been able to access and assess because of flooding, blocked roads” and other factors.

T-Mobile faulted the power outages for the loss of cell service, saying it is sending crews to activate back-up generators and repair damaged towers.

Sprint reported that 70 percent of its cell sites are operational but the number “will continue to fluctuate depending” on power outages, so crews have been deployed to start up generators and deliver fuel.

“We are reminding people to continue to use text message rather than voice calling to help relieve network resources,” Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton said.

AT&T did not say how much of its cell network is operational. Spokeswoman Kelly Starling said the company is assessing the effects of Hurricane Irma in Florida and other states because of “significant power outages and other storm damage.”

She noted AT&T has sent disaster recovery teams to restore service, including transporting portable cell sites to the Keys, Miami and Tallahassee. Also, a command center, electronics vehicle and Hazmat team based in Miami.

Losing cellphone service during and after the storm has been on everyone’s mind. The reason: A majority of U.S. homes now rely solely on a cellphone, according to a report released this summer by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Miami Herald staff writer Nancy Dahlberg contributed to this report.

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