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FCC: Communications outages could get worse

The storm flooded much of Hoboken, N.J.

The storm flooded much of Hoboken, N.J. // Charles Sykes/AP

Communications outages caused by Sandy could get worse before they get better, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski warned on Tuesday.

Flooding, snow, and other dangerous conditions could slow efforts to restore electricity and communications networks, he told reporters. Wireless communications are especially vulnerable to sustained outages, Genachowski said.

Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast, has had a "substantial and serious" impact on the country's communications infrastructure, he said. "The storm is not over. Our posture is to expect the unexpected."

Because of power outages as well as physical damage, as much as 25 percent of cellphone sites in the storm's path were not operating as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to an FCC monitoring system. Roughly a quarter of broadband, home phone, or cable services also experienced widespread outages, FCC officials said. The agency's system monitors 158 counties in 10 states.

Genachowski also said that a "very small number" of 911 call centers were down, while some centers were rerouting emergency calls to other centers.

FCC officials are in contact with telecommunications companies, which say they are working to restore service.

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