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AT&T: Some fiber-optic infrastructure going under ground

October 20, 2021 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Telecommunications giant AT&T will put parts of its fiber-optic infrastructure in southeast Louisiana under ground to avoid future hurricane outages, the company announced Wednesday.

The company said in a news release that there were multiple cuts to key fiber-optic lines in areas affected by Hurricane Ida, which hit Aug. 29.

The plan to bury fiber-optic equipment that had been on poles in the region will focus on Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, St. Charles, St. James and Terrebonne parishes. The exact cost of the project wasn’t given but AT&T said it will be in the tens of millions of dollars.

“I am proud of the tremendous work that has been done by our AT&T team to restore services quickly and effectively,” said Sonia Perez, President AT&T Southeast States. “Having said that, we learn from every disaster event and make enhancements, and we are doing the same here. This critical project is the beginning of our work to apply constructive learnings from the impacts of Hurricane Ida.”

The project is targeted for completion in the first half of 2022, the company said, with most of the work scheduled for completion this year.

The announcement came as state utility regulators pressed communications companies, including AT&T, to issue automatic credits for Hurricane Ida outages.

“You know the zone of impact,” Public Service Commission member Eric Skrmetta said during Wednesday’s commission meeting. “It’s really a bad situation and you have to work harder on how to address these credits proactively.”

The Daily Advertiser reports that AT&T state director Stephanie Doiron told Public Service Commission members that the company needs specific information from customers to issue credits on services including cellular, internet and television.

Cox Communications is issuing automatic Hurricane Ida credits to customers who lost service for seven days or more, but customers whose outages lasted less than a week have to call to request refunds. The Advertiser reported that Charter Communications and EATEL are issuing automatic credits to all of their customers.