Telecommunications in Prince William Sound

During the early days of the effort to address the Exxon Valdez oil spill, some public communications systems experienced blocked calls; the facilities were not designed then to handle such a heavy volume. Communications in remote places of Alaska are always a challenge, however improvements have been made since 1989, including increased bandwidth, Internet and email access, and updated cell and satellite phone service. Two-way radios are also available. Systems that function well for everyday activity could become overwhelmed and inoperable during a major response to a natural disaster or oil spill. In 2005, the council, along with many stakeholders, worked with contractor Shall Engineering to perform an assessment of the communications capabilities of the Prince William Sound area. This project looked at the agencies’ abilities to communicate internally as well as how communications would work among agencies during a response.
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Project Updates (since 2005): Council continues to monitor for expanding capacity and developments in the communication systems of the area. As already noted, local cellular providers continue to expand services, and these are readily being taken advantage off by all user groups. Internet capabilities for example are very common on all large vessels in the Sound today and personal smart phones are very common among vessel owners and crew. SERVS upgraded and fitted the response barge 500-2 (main support for nearshore operations) with internet access in late 2010 following a large scale exercise and this access has proved incredibly useful for passing information back and forth from the field to the command post.
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