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AT&T, Verizon Send Equipment To Aid In Oil Spill Disaster

Both AT&T and Verizon have sent extra equipment to the Louisiana coast to beef up their networks as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico brings thousands of people to the area responding to the disaster. AT&T has deployed emergency communications vehicles and other resources to the area to expand network bandwidth, particularly on cellular networks, under its disaster recovery and business continuity program for its customers, said Chris Costello, assistant vice president for hosting and cloud services for AT&T.

The oil spill response came up in an interview with Costello about a newly released AT&T study of how enterprises are spending IT dollars for disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) preparedness. The study surveyed businesses in Detroit, Missouri, Philadelphia/Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Gulf Coast -- the latter chosen because of the DR/BC resources deployed there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The 2010 study showed that three out of four business executives see business continuity as a top priority, and that 83 percent of businesses surveyed have established a DR/BC plan, a 14 percent increase from five years ago. Also, among all the markets surveyed, 29 percent invoked their DR/PC plans due to some kind of event, but in the Gulf Coast, the figure was 40 percent, said Costello. "There was a time when customers would say 'It wouldn't happen to me,' and more and more customers have experienced natural disasters," she said, such as floods and hurricanes and power outages.

Verizon Communications has deployed backup equipment to Plaquemines Parish, La., which is right on the coast and has become a staging area for crews from British Petroleum, other companies, myriad state, local and federal government agencies, not to mention news media, all responding to the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon platform off the coast. That's a lot of people using cell phones in an area that doesn't get much traffic generally, said Gretchen LeJeune, a Verizon spokeswoman in Houston. "That's a very rural area and you notice the difference [on the network] when you have a number of people coming in," LeJeune said.

Verizon has added to the capacity of cell towers already in the area and also brought in portable "Cells on Wheels" (COWs) to establish additional cell sites to handle more calls. "We're still seeing increased capacity in that area but everything is working fine," she said. Likewise, AT&T has dispatched equipment to the region to expand network capacity. "We have basically a satellite on wheels to provide increased coverage from a cell phone and communications standpoint and we also have a backup in the Louisiana area that we're ready to deploy as needed," said Costello.