Louisiana Lawmakers Criticize AT&T Over Emergency Communication Failures | New



A bipartisan panel of state lawmakers criticized telecoms giant AT&T for failing to appear in a Joint Commerce Committee hearing on Monday at the Louisiana State Capitol amid concerns over emergency communication failures .

AT & T’s mobile phone service failed in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, as did the exclusive telecommunications emergency responder communications network known as FirstNet.

At least four parishes and the city of New Orleans were unable to use their AT&T-provided 911 call centers during and after the storm. Likewise, several local emergency preparedness offices have been unable to communicate vital safety information to first responders and Louisiana residents in known disaster areas.

Seeking answers, lawmakers issued a request to appear two weeks ago, but only a company lobbyist showed up to testify on Monday. The lobbyist was unable to answer technical questions about the company’s performance issues.

Representative Stephanie Hilferty, R-Metairie, vice-chair of the committee, first approached the issue with a series of unanswered questions, ultimately sparking frustration among Southeast Louisiana lawmakers.

“From what I understood, the 911 center in the parish of Orléans requested additional laps before the storm and was told that the AT&T system would work and that he did not need it,” she declared.

“I am not familiar with this particular case. I apologize,” said AT&T lobbyist Joseph Mapes.

“What is the difference between AT&T’s system and Verizon’s system? I have Verizon and it seemed to work as service for most people with AT&T phones shut down during the storm,” said Hilferty.

“I can’t compare the two companies,” Mapes said.

“Is there anyone at AT&T who could explain the technical nature of why some of these things happened during the storm that accompanies you today?” Hilferty asked.

“No, not here today. We can get written testimony on the implementation of repairs and reconstruction and the data is not complete, especially on 911,” Mapes said. “When he arrives, we will give a full report to this committee.”

“I was hoping someone would be here today to explain why the system went down and why extra precautions were not taken given that we knew the size and nature of the storm as it was coming ashore, ”said Hilferty.

“We intend to learn from this,” Mapes replied.

Representative Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux, said it was “disheartening” that AT&T did not send a single representative to the committee hearing. He told stories of people who needed help and couldn’t call emergency services.

“This state has probably spent $ 2 billion to equip itself with a communication system that works in an emergency,” Fontenot said. “It’s not about being able to check out my Facebook. It’s about the ability to communicate when people’s lives are at stake. We pay for it. Our taxes pay you for it.”

Representative Tanner Magee, R-Houma, echoed his disappointment and said he had to leave his home in Houma and travel to Baton Rouge to get mobile phone service to call the operations center state emergency.

“What good is a network of first responders if they don’t work within the first 48 hours?” Magee asked.

Senator Cameron Henry, a Republican representing parts of the parishes of Jefferson and Orleans, took issue with AT&T charging residential and business customers for access to hotspots in light of network failures in the business, which lawmakers say continued until the committee meeting.

“I would advise them strongly, in a breathtaking way,” Henry told the AT&T lobbyist, “that we expect our constituents to receive some form of credit and relatively soon.”

Asked by Senator Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, Mapes could not say whether FirstNet was even operational on Monday – 21 days after Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana – although Mapes said he received a text saying that he was operational a few moments before ending his testimony to the committee.

“It is pointless for us to sit here and question you,” Carter Peterson said. “My recommendation is that the Administration Division cancel the FirstNet contract with AT&T and enter into an emergency contract within the next 48 hours for the provision of emergency communications, as we are still in hurricane season.”

Original location: Louisiana lawmakers slam AT&T over emergency communication failures

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