Pai also said consumers in those areas should be allowed to
switch carriers without paying a penalty.
Verizon Communications Inc, which has been criticized for the
pace of its restoration efforts, said late on Tuesday that all
consumer and business customers in hard hit Bay County and Gulf
County, Florida, would be automatically credited for three
months of mobile service for each line they have.
At least 18 deaths in four states have been blamed on Michael,
which crashed into the Florida Panhandle on Oct. 10 as one of
the most powerful storms on record to hit the continental United
States. The storm damaged fiber networks and electrical wires
necessary for broadband and mobile phone service.
Pai said in a written statement the progress in restoring
service is "completely unacceptable" and that the FCC will
investigate the outages.
The request from the chair of the nation's telecommunications
regulator came after Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is locked
in a tough race for the U.S. Senate, earlier on Tuesday called
on carriers to waive bills for customers without service and
allow consumers to change carriers without penalty.
Verizon has attributed the delay in part to significant damage
to fiber connections in Florida's Panhandle and the strength of
On Tuesday, the FCC said that 61.5 percent of cell sites remain
out of service in Bay County, down from 65.4 percent on Monday.
Scott said "telecommunications companies should be open and
transparent with Floridians and do so with a clearly
communicated plan to quickly restore service."
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat running for
re-election against Scott, earlier on Tuesday asked carriers to
"provide a 60-day moratorium on late fees, interest accrual,
penalties and any other unnecessary costs to give people time to
recover and get back on their feet."
In a letter to Verizon on Tuesday, Nelson said "too many of your
Florida customers in the Panhandle are still not able to use
your network. This is not acceptable, especially when your
competitors have been restoring service much faster."
AT&T Inc spokesman Michael Balmoris said the company has
implemented credits for customers in hard-hit areas and plans to
extend those credits through Oct. 21. AT&T plans to continue
those "as conditions require."
AT&T has deployed 15 large-scale portable cell sites to the most
storm damaged areas.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Leslie
Adler and Matthew Lewis)
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