Why is cellphone service so bad after Iowa derecho?

Storm cut fiber lines, disrupting service

As Eastern Iowa residents look to stay connected in the aftermath of Monday’s derecho, they’ve been greeted with a lack of cellphone reception.

We received a question from Mick Parr, who asked The Gazette about cellular tower repairs. He asked “What is the status of U.S. Cellular’s repairs? I have heard almost nothing official from the company.”

U.S. Cellular spokesman Kevin Schuster told The Gazette downed power lines and trees damaged fiber lines that feed into U.S. Cellular’s network.

As of Wednesday, many U.S. Cellular customers had “some level of service,” Schuster said.

“Our network teams are diligently working to restore complete service to all our customers as quickly as possible,” Schuster said. “We apologize for any inconvenience, and we appreciate our customers’ understanding as we work through the issues caused by these unprecedented storms.”

U.S. Cellular isn’t the only provider facing these challenges. Verizon is facing “some network disruption,” spokesman David Weissmann said.

Along with fiber cuts during the storm, Weismann said there were additional cuts made by “third parties” since then during the recovery.


Weissmann said customers’ increased reliance on their cellphones as their only device capable of reaching the internet also slows down the network.

“The eventual return of commercial power will also help alleviate capacity issues as more people will have access to home internet and rely less on their mobile devices for their internet needs,” Weissmann said.

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