In this hyper-connected world, when WiFi is down, so is commerce for hundreds of thousands of South Florida businesses and individuals who depend on it to get work done.
As for TV, when you have three kids who are bored and schools are still closed, “that makes it really tough,” said Jessica Rodriguez, who lost her Xfinity service for cable and WiFi in Plantation Saturday night even though her power was on.
As South Florida recovers from Hurricane Irma, providers of Internet and television services were walloped by angry customers demanding to know when their services will be restored. Many consumers said they were not getting answers — some couldn’t even get through.
Rodriguez tweeted to @comcastcares and received a message that her service would be restored Sept. 18 at 3:30 p.m. “That seems unreasonable to me.”
AT&T UVerse customer Ron Dias in Southwest Miami-Dade lost his bundled services — TV, Internet and digital home phone — Saturday and they are all still out, even though his power was restored Monday. He wants answers. “I wish they would tell us what is going on. This is the information age.”
Reginald Andre, president of Ark Solvers, a company that manages computer services for condominiums and other businesses, estimated about 80 percent of his 240 business customers are experiencing outages with either Atlantic Broadband — many of them Miami Beach condominiums — Comcast’s Xfinity or AT&T UVerse, he said. Many have their business’ phone services through the internet too. “If the internet is down, their phones are down.”
On all three services, outages were widespread. Many could be linked to electric outages; half of the tri-county area is still blacked out. But the Miami Herald and the Twitter feeds of Comcast and AT&T received hundreds of complaints from customers with power but no WiFi or TV services.
Mindy Kramer, a Comcast spokeswoman, said the network that feeds and distributes Comcast services throughout the Miami area contains critical communications equipment that rely on commercial power that has been down.
“As of Tuesday morning, we have been able to restore power to some but not all of the equipment that services customers in the Miami-metro area. We are working very closely with FPL so they can prioritize these critical facilities and restore commercial power service to them as quickly as possible,” said Kramer.
“Our facilities in South Florida have been running on generators since the storm began and unfortunately everyone is need of the same fuel resources. We have been doing our best to refuel these generators so that our facilities are able to stay functioning without commercial power. We have teams deploying additional generators today in South Florida.”
Kramer said the company also suffered damage due to lines cut by fallen trees. Destruction was most extensive in the Florida Keys.
Still, Kramer said, except for in the Keys, “we expect our plant to be restored quickly from what our assessments show so far.” She said FPL on Tuesday restored power to one piece of critical equipment, “but we need them all to come back up.”
As soon as commercial power is restored to Comcast’s Miami Metro plant, consumer services should quickly resume, she said. “The situation is very challenging and we know being without Xfinity internet, TV or phone service is frustrating for our customers. We are doing everything possible to be able to restore services as quickly as we can.”
Nearly all Xfinity wifi hotspots are active and working, she said. Those have been free to non-customers since before the storm.
Comcast also has created a website for customers to report storm impact issues: https://www.xfinity.com/florida. It has rerouted customer calls from hurricane-impacted areas to its call centers in other parts of the country, so no calls should go unanswered.
AT&T provided little detail about the extent and locations of its outages or when customers might see services restored.
An emailed statement from spokeswoman Kelly Starling read, “In Florida, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia some [UVerse] customers may be experiencing issues with their service because of flooding and storm damage. Our technicians are working to restore service to affected areas as quickly and safely as conditions allow. Our Network Disaster Recovery team is deploying portable cell sites to the Florida Keys, Miami and Tallahassee. Additionally we are deploying an electronic communication vehicle, command center and a hazmat team to Miami. We have additional resources being staged for further deployment across the region. We are monitoring our network closely and are coordinating with emergency management officials and local utility companies.”
Rich Shea, CEO of Atlantic Broadband, sent this statement: “Atlantic Broadband's restoration workforce is currently mobilized in Florida and our network and facilities are intact. We have assembled additional response teams from across all Atlantic Broadband operating locations to support these efforts. As commercial power is restored and downed drops are cleared, Atlantic Broadband will be moving briskly to restore services to its customers.”
He said 25 percent of its Florida customers have had all their Atlantic Broadband services restored. “Customer services will continue to be resumed as quickly as possible as power is restored by FPL,” he said.
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