That's why cell phones were of little use right after the explosions yesterday in Boston. Some uninformed person in Washington told a reporter that communications in the area had been suspended to make sure that cell phones couldn't be used to set-off other explosives. Not true. A number of law enforcement as well as cellular industry sources told me that people in the bomb zone couldn't use their cell phones because too many people were trying to use them at the same time. Purely a case of overloaded lines. Verizon ( VZ) and Sprint ( S) say they were never asked by police to suspend cellular service in the area. The carriers were forced to block calls because "the number of calls exceeded capacity." Verizon asked customers to use email and texting instead of trying to make voice calls in and around Boston's Copley Square. AT&T ( T) and T-Mobile haven't commented on the situation. This morning, cellular communications are reportedly "getting better" in Boston. There are still areas with "spotty" service but overall, conditions are improving as the large number of visitors attending yesterday's race leave the downtown area. Cellular providers attempt to provide enough bandwidth in any given area to ensure they're able to handle a normal level of communications. the carriers try to make available a buffer in case the need arises. But when something occurs that causes panic leading people to grab their phone, cellular company are hard pressed to handle the surge.
As a society, it shows just how much we rely on cell phones and the technologies which make them possible. And, despite all that technological now-how, just how fragile those systems - and life itself - really are. --Written by Gary Krakow in New York. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.