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Irene to challenge cell networks. Networks to lose.

Hurricane Irene is expected to hit with full force tomorrow morning and possibly be enormously destructive. CNET points out that 96% of Americans own cell phones and a quarter of households use cell as their only phone. In times of crisis and emergency, a lot of people start making calls, which alone should severely disable communications. Add to that the possibility that a massive storm could knock down cell towers and damage infrastructure, well, this is probably going to be ugly. Our cell system isn't built for emergencies. It didn't even stay strong during the earthquake on the east coast. If there's a lot of damage, expect even more pressure for the government to allocate some spectrum space for the so-called D-Block: a communications system to be used my emergency first responders. Won't mean anything for your cell coverage though, which will still be terrible in an emergency.

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John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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