Cellular service held up better during Harvey than in past storms, which is surprising given the scope and size of the disaster.

Not every area's cell coverage fared well.

In the four counties along the Texas Gulf Coast where the hurricane first made landfall, there were significant outages, leaving tens of thousands of people without phone service.

But across the entire affected area, cell networks did relatively well, thanks in part to the lessons the carriers have learned from dealing with past disasters.

It's increasingly critical that cell service works during times of disaster; fewer people have landlines, and they rely on a smartphone for many things beyond a simple phone call.

"For a disaster of this scope, to only have 4 percent of cell sites go down is really amazing in some ways," said Jamie Barnett, a partner at law firm Venable and a former chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

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