Normally, a trip to the pristine Gulf of Mexico beaches found along the Florida Panhandle would be a welcomed respite from the daily briefings and political marauding of Washington, D.C.
Sadly, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is preparing for not a relaxing sojourn but a sobering assessment of the damage caused last week to the region by Hurricane Michael.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will visit areas of Northwest Florida impacted by the storm on Friday (10/18), to personally assess the damage and get an update on recovery efforts.
Pai plans to meet with service providers and government officials working to restore communications networks. He has been particularly critical of wireless service companies for being laggards in the recovery process.
“Even though efforts to restore communications services have been going well in most of the areas affected by Hurricane Michael, the slow progress in restoring wireless service in areas close to where the hurricane made landfall is completely unacceptable,” Pai said in a statement issued Tuesday (10/16). “While the FCC has been in regular contact with companies serving the affected areas, I’m concerned that their actions on the ground aren’t matching the urgency that we have conveyed during those conversations.”
He joined Florida Gov. Rick Scott in calling on wireless carriers to waive the bills of Floridians in affected areas for the month of October and to allow them to change carriers without penalty. “These carriers also need to immediately disclose publicly to Floridians how they will quickly restore service,” Pai implored. “In addition, I have directed our Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau to promptly initiate an investigation into this matter.”
Some 61.5% of all cell towers in Bay County, home to hard-hit Panama City Beach, were out as of Tuesday (10/16) at 11am.
Meanwhile, television stations are largely back on the air, with WMBB-13 conducting newscasts from makeshift locales surrounding its damaged facility as of Sunday evening. The lone station reporting dark is Sinclair Broadcast Group’s FOX affiliated WFXL-31 in Albany, Ga.
Some 13 FM radio stations and 3 AMs are presently off the air; Powell Broadcasting will not be returning its four FMs to the air, as RBR+TVBR reported Monday.