The Louisiana government is unlikely to attempt to switch communications provider from AT&T, although many government employees, including first responders, lost phone service for several hours in the hours following Hurricane Ida.
Several state lawmakers told AT&T during a hearing last week that they were upset that emergency communications went down “when many of these numbers were needed most.”
âMy recommendation is that the administration department cancel the FirstNet contract with AT&T and conclude an emergency contract within the next 48 hours“Said Senator Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, to an AT&T spokesperson.
But Louisiana is unlikely to cancel its agreement with AT&T anytime soon. The state receives AT&T services through FirstNet – a federal program designed to help first aiders in emergencies – at no cost to the state.
Despite the communications outages during Ida, Governor John Bel Edwards continues to “support” the program, said Shauna Sanford, governor’s spokeswoman.
“There are certainly lessons to be learned from what happened after Hurricane Ida … and the governor anticipates improvements will be made in the future,” said Sanford.
Mike Steele, communications director for the governor’s office for homeland security and emergency preparedness, said the governor or lawmaker does not have a choice of switching their emergency call service from AT&T to another telecom provider if they want the federal government to continue paying for it.
The federal government decided that AT&T would be the provider, and Louisiana can only choose the program, not the program’s specific telecommunications provider, he said.
Initial talks have begun on how telecommunications services can be better prepared for the next disaster between AT&T and the state, Steele said, but “our immediate focus right now is on housing construction … and getting people back on the recreational path . “
âFreight forwarders will have problems in a Category 4 hurricane. I think it is unrealistic to believe that there will be no blackouts, âhe said.
Just 60 percent of AT & T’s network in Louisiana worked the day after Ida beat the state, and state officials had significant problems communicating with each other about their response to the storm at a time when people were still to be rescued from flood homes and businesses.
Nick Manale, a spokesman for Louisiana State Police, said several of their offices “After Hurricane Ida, they temporarily lost telephone or radio connections, but were still able to actively participate in public safety missions. “
When asked how AT&T plans to improve its services for the next disaster, Jim Greer, an AT&T spokesman, declined to comment, but cited the company’s September 10 statement that said, “Of the landline customers that we know of had service degradation, more than 90% of them recovered “and” our wireless network in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama continues to function normally. “