Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Rural areas get temporary cell-phone boost so networks can handle influx of eclipse viewers

An AT&T cell on wheels tower near Hopkinsville, Ky. (AT&T photo)
Roads, restaurants and hotels won't be the only thing stressed by the influx of solar-eclipse viewers to areas along the path of totality on Monday, Aug. 21. "In an era of Instagram, Snapchat and live-streaming, they'll almost certainly need cell-phone service. But the latter could be a problem" in many small towns and rural areas along the path of the eclipse, Brian Fung reports for The Washington Post.

Towns such as Madras, Ore., and Hopkinsville, Ky., have been preparing for the eclipse for years, and they've made a point to ask about getting extra cell service. "All four nationwide carriers — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint — are addressing the problem by rolling out surge capacity," Fung reports. "Some are going to be cells on wheels, or COWs. Others are known as cells on light trucks, or COLTs. But whatever they're called, they're all designed to do one thing particularly well: Boost wireless capacity, in some cases by more than 300 percent." Carriers say the spikes in usage will likely travel with the eclipse's totality, and networks should be able to absorb the surge as easily as they would a major sporting event.

How much will this extra cell coverage cost the small towns? Nothing, in most cases. "It's in the best interest of the providers to be here," Madras resident Brian Crowe told Fung. "They want coverage for their customers." And in Madras, Fung reports, "It'll run the other way around: The telecom companies will be paying rent." Rural residents should enjoy the extra bars while they can.

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