How cellular carriers prepared for and responded to Hurricane Ian

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Hurricane Ian took out its fair share of towers in Florida; according to the Federal Communications Commission, nearly a fifth of the cellular sites in its path was put out of service at one point. Many citizens were unable to call for help or to reassure their loved ones that they’d survived the storm. While the need for wired and cellular infrastructure won’t be going away anytime soon, we’re heading toward a future where it’ll be possible to communicate with loved ones and rescue personnel in other ways. It’s foreseeable that within a few hurricane seasons, people could have some modicum of connection before the carriers roll in with their mobile cell stations. That could especially be a boon for those in rural areas. There were hints of how this could work this year; according to CNN, Florida is using SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet to help restore connectivity in some areas. Communicating with satellites can come with a lot of latency, and if you’re doing so with your phone, you won’t necessarily want to be burning a very limited battery when it’s unclear how long it’ll take to get the power back on. But for those of us waiting to hear from loved ones in disaster areas, one or two messages could mean the world — and for those in disaster areas, the ability to get the word out could genuinely wind up being the difference between life and death.

How cell carriers prepared for and responded to Hurricane Ian