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FCC: Mobile and Cable Services Improving

New York and New Jersey continue to be 'difficult'

East Village residents sit on corner of Avenue C that gets cell phone reception and make calls Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

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As many residents of New York and New Jersey know all too well after Sandy blew through town, cellphone and cable service outages persist. But overall, communications conditions in the 10 states knocked out by the storm are improving, the Federal Communications Commission said today.

The number of cell site outages has declined from a high of 25 percent on Tuesday to 19 percent. Cable service outages dropped to between 12 percent and 14 percent, from 25 percent. Calls to 911 centers throughout the 10-state area affected by Sandy can be received, though some are being rerouted to another center.

While the communications infrastructure is getting better, restoration in the hardest hit areas of New York and New Jersey "continues to be more difficult," said David Turetsky, the FCC's public safety and homeland security bureau chief. The challenge, Turetsky said in a statement, is replenishing fuel supplies for generators that will keep communications networks up and running.

The FCC, at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and at field offices, has been working 24/7 to support FEMA's efforts and to respond to requests from local officials and communications companies. For example, FCC field agents have been working in New York City to get fuel to a switching center that serves multiple communications providers.

Wireless carriers have pitched in to ease mobile communications. AT&T and T-Mobile have enabled roaming on each other's networks, allowing consumers to place calls on either one with no additional charges or changes to current rate plans.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are also letting customers charge their devices at their stores.

Comcast is opening up access to Xfinity WiFi hot spots in areas knocked out by Sandy. Consumers just have to find Internet access to access Comcast's coverage map in order to find a hot spot. Nonsubscribers will have access to a complimentary trial session every two hours through Nov. 7.