(NEWSnet) – Solar eclipse preparation recommendations include one that has been getting a surprised response on social media – a possibility that cell phone coverage will be disrupted in the totality area.

The situation will have little to do with the sun itself, or the shadow that the moon will cast on the earth.

It instead has a lot to do with the surge of people who live in or are expected to travel into the path where the solar eclipse causes a few minutes of total darkness known as totality.

It also has to do with observation during the 2017 eclipse, where cell phone services were overwhelmed in multiple communities.

According to the Great American Eclipse site, 31 million people in the U.S. live inside the 2024 path of totality – or about 2 ½ times the number of people who were in the 2017 totality path.

“Be prepared for your cell phones not to work!” is a tip shared by the Norwalk, Ohio, Talks for Real YouTube account. The City of Norwalk is within of the large stretch of Ohio that will be in the shadow. “We are going to have a huge amount of people in our town, and our cell phone towers cannot handle the amount of devices that are going to be here.”


In her video, the narrator compared the forecasted situation to overloaded connections that are experienced in more commonly crowded situations such as at a football game or a car race.

According to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Americans age 18 and over, 97% to be specific, owned a cell phone of some kind in fall 2023. While the overall use of mobile phones is about the same percentage in 2023 as seen in 2017, far more of the devices in use now are phones are data-heavy smartphones that can access a wide range of mobile-friendly services.

Those smartphones might normally be relied on by tourists for GPS mapping, weather radar checks, location pin for a parked vehicle’s location, looking up totality times for a specific location, and sharing pictures of a meetup spot with friends and family.

As a result, emergency officials have been adding cell phone service to their public awareness and planning checklists for weeks – to some questions, conversations and skepticism on social media.

That being said, AT&T specifically has issued a statement saying “our network has drastically changed since the last solar eclipse in 2017,” citing an increased bandwidth that the company has invested. The company also noted that its headquarters in Dallas, Texas, will be within the totality path.

NEWS10 in New York state also checked in with some of the cell phone companies serving its area regarding eclipse preparations. Verizon gave this statement to the TV station: “We do not expect any impact from the 2024 solar eclipse on the operation of our network. In areas where people may gather to experience this event, we feel confident the additional capacity we have layered into the network over the past few years will accommodate any increases in data usage.”

Backup Communication / Information Options


Communication suggestions shared by emergency officials for those who live or will be in the totality area include a range of ideas:

  • Test and plug in a landline phone if you will be home and still have that service available.
  • If you don’t have a landline, find out ahead of time who in your neighborhood will be home and has a landline phone that could be used in an emergency.
  • NOAA Weather Radio devices, which are battery-powered and use designated frequencies, can be used to stay informed about severe weather conditions.
  • Use text instead of voice calls to contact someone on cell phones.
  • Bring along a paper map in case a GPS-based routing app doesn’t work.
  • Bring “walkie talkie” radios along to a viewing spot to stay in contact should you and loved ones get split up.
  • If you’ll be traveling to a viewing spot in an unfamiliar area, consider downloading ahead of time the What3Words app. This is a mapping service that can help first responders pinpoint the location of 911 callers in an emergency; it might work when another location app does not.

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