BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The state is still looking for answers about the failure of communication and energy services following Hurricane Ida. Immediately after the storm, AT&T users could not use their phones, including first responders and 911 centers.
“Until we can get all the answers for it I think it will continue to be disturbing to some, how so much of our emergency communications were down in a time where they were most needed,” Sen. Rick Ward said.
Sen. Ward, a Republican from Port Allen, chairs the Senate Commerce Committee that met last month with representatives from AT&T, Cox, Entergy, DEMCO, and other providers. It was proposed that the state reconsider its contract with AT&T for the FirstNet services that went down. Ward said he is not sure how those talks will go but they plan to have the company back to the Capitol to explain the situation.
“Do we look in a different direction or what do we do to make sure this doesn’t happen anymore?,” Sen. Ward asked.
Energy providers were also questioned on why so much of their grid broke during Ida. Ward said there needs to be a balance that doesn’t raise customers rates too high. With each major disaster customers are being charged more on their bills to cover rebuilding costs. Conversely, if providers were to harden their grid it would put costs on customers as well.
“It seems like at some point even they don’t want to have to continue to do this every single year and I think there are places where maybe you can’t harden the whole thing at once but maybe you start taking those steps,” Sen. Ward said.
He also emphasized the state’s need to prioritize infrastructure spending. He said Louisiana’s spending is largely federal dollars, around 80%, which is one of the highest in the country. He wants to move the state towards using money from the state budget for roads and bridges. A bill he co-sponsored in the 2021 legislative session will take 60% of the vehicle tax and put money towards a construction sub-fund starting in 2025.
Ward said they plan to get more answers from the providers on what went wrong after the storm. The meeting is planned for sometime in November.