One of the side effects of hurricane Sandy here in New Jersey were widespread power outages. As a result, phone lines that ran through cable went offline, people didn’t have easy access to Facebook or email, and even voice calls over cell phones became very spotty. The only quasi-reliable way to get a message to family and friends was texting.
This led to a problem: people with capped text and voice plans were getting nastygrams from their cell companies informing them they were close to or over their limits. Not a great situation to be in when you have no other means of communication, and there is little chance of another option in the near future. I saw quite a few angry Facebook statuses about those notifications, and I wondered how long it would take the cell companies to realize how embarrassingly out of touch these automated messages sounded.
According to CNET, Verizon has already caught on:
“Verizon Wireless continues to focus its efforts to assist customers in the regions hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy,” the carrier wrote in a FAQ about the program. “We announced November 4th that customers in portions of New York and New Jersey will not be billed usage charges for domestic voice and text usage incurred between October 29th and November 16th 2012. No action is required by our customers to be eligible for this program.”
In the FAQ, Verizon explained that those customers in the impacted areas don’t need to take any action; they just won’t be charged for voice and text use during the specified period. They will still be responsible for monthly access charges, however. As for the cut-off date of November 16, Verizon wrote, “By 11/16 we’re hoping that the lives of our customers impacted by storm will have returned to pre-Sandy normalcy.”
Verizon restored its service to 99 percent of the East Coast as of last weekend and continues to help people affected by the hurricane. After the storm, the company deployed Wireless Emergency Communication Centers throughout the region that provided public access to device charging and free domestic calling to local residents. It also sent out mobile stores-on-wheels to serve as fully functioning Verizon Wireless Stores.
Hopefully AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint follow suit! On the other hand, judging from the fact that my neighbor on Sprint couldn’t get signal, and my parents on AT&T had 2hr+ delays in text messages arriving, maybe no one else had enough signal to go over on their monthly allocation?