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Quarter of Eastern cell towers BLOWN down BY SANDY - FCC

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Around a quarter of mobile phone towers in the ten East-coast states hit by Hurricane Sandy have been damaged or destroyed, the Federal Communications Commission has said.

The FCC is anticipating continued communication problems as other towers are running on backup power.

"This was and still is a devastating storm with a serious impact on our nation's communications infrastructure," chairman Julius Genachowski said during a conference call with press, reported by the Wall Street Journal and others.

"The storm is not over. And our assumption is that communications outages could get worse before they get better, particularly for mobile networks, because of the flooding and loss of power."

Both flooding and snowfall in the affected region could affect more towers and make it difficult to repair the towers already in trouble.

Genachowski also said that a very small number of emergency call centres had lost power but calls were being rerouted. He urged the public to only call 911 in life-threatening emergencies and to limit nonessential calls, using texts or social media to communicate instead, so that mobile networks could stay open for priority calls.

"We've seen broadband and social media continue to play an important role in communication for people during this storm," he said. "Social media is a critical platform for sharing information with loved ones. And it's been vital in keeping those other communications networks open for first responders."

Broadband and cable TV customers have also been hit by outages, with around a quarter of customers without the services. ®

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