Hurricane Sandy’s Effect on the Digital World

The week of October 29, 2012 brought Hurricane Sandy and with it came tremendous devastation and destruction for millions leaving floods, fires, and power outages in its path. After the storm passed, it was reported that 1/4 of cable, Internet, and wireless providers were still not operating at full capacity, or at all.

sandy from space

Sandy from space (NASA)

Hurricane Sandy’s Effect on Cable, Internet, and Wireless Providers

In the tri-state area, where Sandy hit hardest, 25% of wireless carriers reported to the FCC that they were unable to properly operate following the storm. [1] This made millions of Sandy victims unable to connect with loved ones via their smartphones and other mobile devices. Those who still had power and an Internet connection may have also experienced intermittent connections and slow speeds. [1] The FCC even warned that many of the towers that were still functioning were running on battery operated backup generators and were likely to run out of fuel. Officials warned that this could lead to an even larger digital outage before connections would be fully restored. [1]

fake sandy photos

Fake Hurricane Sandy photos

Hurricane Sandy’s Effect on Cable, Internet, and Wireless Providers

Popular websites, like the Huffington Post and Gawker, did not escape Sandy unscathed either and experienced outages following the storm as well. [5] However, while these websites (and many others) were down the Internet continued spreading news of the storm, many stories which contained false reports and photoshopped images. [6] Photoshopped images included pictures of scuba divers swimming through subway tunnels and giant tidal waves heading towards the New York City skyline. [6] A Twitter troll eventually took much of the blame for being one of the main instigators in spreading such faulty news that caused millions anxiety and stress. [6] [7]

How Cell Phone Companies Handled Poor Service

Because of the circumstances cell phone companies, such as AT&T and T-Mobile, put aside their ongoing competition with one another and came together to help those devastated by Hurricane Sandy.[2] By sharing networks during the days immediately following the storm, individuals were allowed to receive service from both, making service stronger and the likelihood of reaching loved ones in need higher. It was also decided that customers of either company would not receive any roaming charges during this time of need.[2] This was an idea shared by many in the northeast the week of the 29th as multiple businesses and banks waived their normal fees until the public was in a more stable environment.[2]

redcrpss website

American Red Cross Website

Trying to Help Those In Need

Many digital companies, such as iTunes, also reached out in an effort to help those affected by the storm. On Wednesday, October 31st Apple created a button on their iTunes’ homepage that allowed users to donate directly to the American Red Cross. Apple promised that 100% of the proceeds would go directly towards helping victims of Hurricane Sandy. [3]

Hurricane Sandy Coming Together Benefit

On Friday, November 2st NBC broadcasted (along with various other networks) the “Hurricane Sandy Coming Together Benefit” telethon to help collect donations for Hurricane Sandy’s victims. The telethon benefit was hosted by Matt Lauer and included a musical line-up containing Christina Aguilera, Billy Joel, Steven Tyler, and Bruce Springsteen. Celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, and Danny DeVito also graced the stage urging those watching to donate to the American Red Cross. [4] This benefit was also linked to iTunes and their efforts to collect donations for the American Red Cross.[4]


The United States of America as a whole, and the digital world, faced tremendous complications and strife during, and following, Hurricane Sandy. However, throughout this troubling time it became very apparent that the digital world is as strong and impactful as ever in the lives of those around the world. Though the digital world was deeply interrupted because of Hurricane Sandy proactive steps have been taken to restore all services offered to individuals not only in the United States, but also around the world.

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