Nov. 1, 2012 at 7:35 PM ET
Cellphone service in areas hit by Sandy is getting back online slowly, with about 20 percent of cell sites still out of commission on the East Coast, down from 25 percent, the Federal Communications Commission said Thursday. For those in the New Jersey and New York areas still without power, but whose cellphones are working, major wireless carriers are offering users places to juice up.
Photos of residents desperately seeking power sources for their phones and devices have become emblematic of one aspect of Sandy's destruction: the power grid we all rely on, especially to charge our mobile phones.
Many people in both states who have power have been sharing it with others, setting up public charging "stations" on sidewalks and other venues.
AT&T said Thursday it is working with the city of New York to "quickly deploy generator-driving charging stations and RVs with charging capabilities for New Yorkers at local food and water stations being set up throughout the five boroughs."
"People in affected areas are invited to visit any of AT&T's approximately 400 retail store locations now open through the Northeast to charge their devices," the company said in a statement. "Details on open stores and temporary/mobile charging stations will be posted as soon as available at att.com/aboutus."
Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless said Thursday it has set up "Wireless Emergency Communication Centers" in four places to give the public access to "device-charging and computer work stations," as well as phones for those who need them to call family and friends.
The centers are here:
In addition, Verizon said it has mobile "stores-on-wheels" at these locations:
T-Mobile said Wednesday as it reopens its stores in affected areas, all mobile users are "welcome to come in and charge their mobile phones."
Mobile users are being advised to check ahead of time to make sure the store is open and does have power. A T-Mobile store locator is here.
"We’re happy to report that network restoration in NYC is now at 85 percent, and Staten Island has improved to 80 percent," said T-Mobile in a statement. "The agreement between T-Mobile with AT&T to share networks in NY and NJ is already providing customers of both AT&T and T-Mobile improved experiences in the hardest hit areas."
Sprint, at this point, does not have charging stations. The carrier said in a statement that "more than 80 percent" of its network is operational, but "challenges remain for the hardest hit areas of these states, including metropolitan New York City and portions of the New Jersey coast."
The carrier said that in New York City, "approximately three-quarters of the network is operational, but challenges remain in obtaining commercial power, backhaul connections, and gaining safe access to cell sites."