Puerto Rico telecommunications recovering slowly
SAN JUAN – Two steps forward, one step back. That’s the current pace of recovery for Puerto Rico’s telecommunications, a service that remains at an anemic 27 percent a week after Hurricane María.
The president of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board of Puerto Rico (JRT by its Spanish initials), Sandra Torres, told Caribbean Business that the reasons for the delay vary and include damage to infrastructure, logistics, lack of diesel, theft and vandalism.
“It has been very difficult. The truth is [María] hit us really hard,” she said, explaining that aggravating the matter were plenty of examples. For instance, 100 gallons of diesel were stolen from one of Guaynabo’s towers, just hours after receiving the fuel. Besides theft, the facilities were also vandalized.
Only 86 of the 1,619 cell towers on the island are operational, Torres said. However, 65 percent of the domestic-calls service has been restored, and the local connection to the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (Arcos), a fiber optic submarine communications cable, has been repaired, allowing for overseas calls.
As for cellphone service, the JRT president said Claro has restored its wireless service to 22 municipalities in the central, northern and western regions. T-Mobile and AT&T continue restoring their service, primarily in the metropolitan area.
As for AT&T, Torres said that within a week and a half the company expects to receive balloons that will help restore temporary connectivity across Puerto Rico. The technology will be placed over Mayagüez, Ponce, Arecibo, Humacao, Cidra and Aguadilla.
Sprint, meanwhile was beginning to be able to restore its service Wednesday.
ATMs being restored
Regarding the number of operational ATMs, Torres said that by Wednesday there were 163 up and running, adding that more will work in as telecommunications are restored.
As for people’s concerns about the lack of access to cash, the JRT president assured that at least one or two ATMs work in each of the island’s 78 municipalities.
Hurricane María’s onslaught last Wednesday, left thousands homeless, significant damage to infrastructure and collapsed energy and telecommunications services. There have been 16 storm-related deaths.