Wireless carriers step up to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts

Hurricane Hrvey
Rescue boats fill a flooded street at flood victims are evacuated as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

When Hurricane Harvey ravaged southern Texas in late August, it was all hands on deck to assist with recovery efforts. Everyone from residents, companies, celebrities and sports organizations stepped up to help those affected by the storm.

Among those lending a helping hand were wireless carriers. The biggest names in the industry like Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T provided aid in the recovery by donating time, minutes, data, tower repair or a combination of all four to help their customers.

T-Mobile for example offered unlimited data to customers who weren’t currently on an unlimited plan from August 28 through September 8 so they could receive storm activity updates and keep in contact with friends and family through social media. The carrier also promoted, “Text to Give” with information on how to make $10 donations to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief, Team Rubicon’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and the Convoy of Hope’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Since about 50 towers in T-Mobile’s Corpus Christi market faced service issues, it deployed new generators and equipment after the storm subsided.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path of this terrible storm,” T-Mobile president and chief executive officer John Legere said in a statement.

AT&T is also helping customers with their service costs. Wireless customers in affected areas will receive credits for additional data, voice, and text charges. AT&T prepaid customers will also receive credits for additional voice and text charges. The offer started on August 26 and will run through at least September 1.

The company also donated $350,000 in aid, divided between the Greater Houston Community Fund, the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Fund and the Coastal Bend Community Foundation in South Texas, according to CNBC.

AT&T’S wireless services in the Corpus Christi area are mostly restored while wireline services are still being affected by power outages and storm damage. In the Houston and Beaumont areas, wireline and wireless services have been affected by flooding for some customers, but technicians are working to restore service to those affected areas as quickly and safely as conditions allow, the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, AT&T has two temporary cell sites deployed in Kingwood, TX and an evacuee center in Alexandria, LA. It also has a temporary site at a staging area in Anniston, LA and is deploying an Emergency Communications Vehicle to one of its wireline facilities in Houston. AT&T also has three charging stations each at the Houston Convention Center and at NRG Stadium as well as one at the Dallas Convention Center for anyone who’s seeking shelter there.

Meanwhile, Verizon made an announcement that it would pledge $10 million to fund Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. It will work with local and state government officials to select four non-profit agencies to support that are doing work on the ground currently and in terms of long-term needs.

Verizon also relieved postpaid customers of their data, talk and text charges and gave prepaid customers an additional three gigabits (GB) that can be used for data, talk, and text from August 26 through September 15. The carrier also deployed mobile equipment like Cells on Wheels (COWs) and Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS) to provide extra service in parts of south Texas that were in need of extra network capacity.

“It is heartbreaking to witness a disaster of this magnitude; our hearts and full support go out to the communities being impacted by Hurricane Harvey, including our own customers and employees,” Verizon Chairman & CEO Lowell McAdam said in a statement. “Verizon is committed to working alongside disaster relief partners to help return a sense of normalcy to residents and restore the areas impacted by the storm. Houston and south Texas are vital to the fabric of America and we want to be on the front lines of the rebuilding efforts.”

Spring and SoftBank committed to a $2.5 million donation, which will go to the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, various community relief organizations as well as to Sprint employees in the affected areas.

The company also waived casual call and text overage fees for Sprint, Boost and Virgin Mobile Customers as well as waived data overage fees for Texas and Louisiana customers affected by the storm. Sprint employees also set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for recovery and restoration efforts for colleagues impacted by the hurricane

“During times of emergencies and disasters, text instead of call because cause actually take up more resources than text where the channels may be jammed,” Sprint satellite backhaul solutions and emergency response team manager Tanya Jones said. “Once you’ve survived the disaster, you need to be able to communicate with your loved ones and let them know you’re okay. We bleed even though we’re not sitting in in the major impacted area. Our hearts are still bleeding for those individuals that are going through this impact.”

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