Louisiana lawmakers slam AT&T for emergency communication failures

A bipartisan panel of state legislators slammed telecom large AT&T for failing to seem Monday at a Joint Commerce Committee listening to on the Louisiana Capitol amid issues over emergency communication failures.

AT&T cell phone service failed within the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, as did the telecom’s unique emergency responder communication community generally known as FirstNet.

A minimum of 4 parishes and town of New Orleans couldn’t use their AT&T offered 911 name facilities throughout and after the storm. Equally, a number of native emergency preparedness places of work have been unable to speak very important security info to first responders and Louisiana residents in identified catastrophe areas.

In search of solutions, lawmakers issued a request for look two weeks in the past, however solely an organization lobbyist confirmed Monday to testify. The lobbyist couldn’t reply technical questions concerning the firm’s efficiency points.

Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, R-Metairie, the committee’s vice chair, first addressed the difficulty with a collection of questions that went unanswered, finally eliciting frustration from the southeast Louisiana lawmaker.

“It’s my understanding that the Orleans Parish 911 heart requested for extra towers forward of the storm and was advised the AT&T system would carry out and that they didn’t want these,” she stated.

“I’m not aware of that individual occasion. I apologize,” stated the AT&T lobbyist, Joseph Mapes.

“What’s the distinction between AT&T’s system and Verizon’s system? I’ve Verizon and it appeared to work whereas service for most individuals with AT&T telephones went out in the course of the storm,” Hilferty stated.

“I can’t make the comparability between the 2 corporations,” Mapes stated.

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“Is there anybody from AT&T who might converse to the technical nature of why a few of these issues went out in the course of the storm that’s right here with you right now?” Hilferty requested.

“No, not right here right now. We are able to get written testimony about implementing repairs and reconstruction and the info isn’t in utterly, particularly on the 911,” Mapes stated. “When it is available in, we’ll give a full report back to this committee.”

“I hoped somebody can be right here right now to elucidate why the system went out and why weren’t extra precautions taken given we knew the dimensions and nature of the storm because it was approaching shore,” Hilferty stated.

“We intend to be taught from this,” Mapes responded.

Rep. Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux, stated it was “disheartening” AT&T didn’t ship a single consultant to the committee listening to. He recounted tales of people that wanted assist and couldn’t name for emergency companies.

“This state has in all probability spent $2 billion to get a communications system that works in occasions of emergency,” Fontenot stated. “This isn’t about with the ability to test my Fb. That is concerning the means to speak when folks’s lives are on the road. We pay for that. Our tax {dollars} pay you for that.”

Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, echoed his disappointment and stated he needed to depart his residence in Houma and drive so far as Baton Rouge to achieve mobile phone service to name into the state Emergency Operations Middle.

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“What good is a primary responder community if it doesn’t work within the first 48 hours?” Magee requested.

Sen. Cameron Henry, a Republican representing elements of Jefferson and Orleans parishes, took subject with AT&T charging residential and enterprise clients for hotspot entry in gentle of the corporate’s community failures, which lawmakers stated continued as much as the committee assembly.

“I’d strongly advise to them, in a breathtakingly robust method,” Henry advised the AT&T lobbyist, “that we count on our constituents to obtain some type of credit score and comparatively quickly.”

When questioned by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, Mapes couldn’t say whether or not FirstNet was even operable Monday – 21 days after Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana – although Mapes stated he acquired a textual content saying it was operable moments earlier than he ended his committee testimony.

“It’s fruitless for us to take a seat right here and query you,” Carter Peterson stated. “My advice is for the Division of Administration to cancel the FirstNet contract with AT&T and do an emergency contract within the subsequent 48 hours for the supply of emergency communications as we’re nonetheless in hurricane season.”

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