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Vulnerability of Wireless Technology Exposed by Superstorm Sandy

November 04, 2012- After Superstorm Sandy blacked out entire towns and cities, people throughout the country’s East Coast quickly discovered the downside to the emerging technology age: Communicating during emergencies is now harder to do.

In the past 10 plus years, people have replaced landlines in their homes with digital phones, cell phones and other flashing mobile gadgets. However, analysts say the problem is that many of the devices require electricity. Therefore when the power goes out, so does the possibility of communicating with family, friends and emergency personnel.

These analysts say the digital portrait of the U.S. is not that encouraging. Over 36% of the homes in the U.S. are wireless. In 2009, there were only 550,000 pay phones, down from a high of 2.1 million just ten years earlier, according to data from the FCC.

These traditional forms of communication happen to be among the best and most reliable at the time of an emergency, said communication experts. Landlines in the home can work even if the electricity goes out. One of these analysts said that phone networks made with copper wire were built to be dependable and stable, because they were from the public utilities and the idea was that they withstood floods and hurricanes.

Telecommunication industry critics say it has not done enough to ensure that people can communicate at times they need to the most. Verizon, AT&T and other firms have been pushing to invest less money in wire line networks, as the popularity in them has fallen.

Public interest advocates argue that wireless providers must be required to provide a backup power for all of the cell towers and ensure their reliable service. The industry however, says that would not be cost effective. Instead, the industry says they would bring generators and extra towers in case of an emergency. That plan had a problem exposed because generators require gasoline, which was a scarce resource in areas of New York that were hit the hardest.

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