Setback in Telecommunications Recovery Efforts
Severe damages to some cellphone antennas reduced cellphone service on the island, which the day before yesterday had reach 45%, said governor Ricardo Rosselló during the morning press briefing. But other telecommunication areas remain stable.
“We inform again that landlines are at 100% and right now we have 42% of clients with cellular service. That went down from yesterday since there were some antennas that exhibited a collapse”, Rosselló said.
Another problem that came up yesterday was that when the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s information system was turned on, it sent bills to some of its clients, even though many haven’t had power in around a month.
The governor said it was just an automatic action of the system and that “no one is going to pay for service they didn’t receive”. Then he went on to instruct that people disregard the electric bill. “Don’t pay it,” said Rosselló.
To address this set back in telecommunications, the government has increase the number of Cell on Wheels Satellites (Sat COWs) in several municipalities and in order to decrease telecommunication problems in general they are evaluating possible sites to establish hotspot zones.
The municipalities that received AT&T Sat COWs are Aguadilla, Arecibo, Fajardo, San Germán, Mayagüez, Quebradillas, Humacao, Guayama, Río Grande, Manatí, Yauco, Vega Baja, Ponce, and Cidra.
“But today there will be more installations of Sat COWs,” stated the governor. However, these portable satellites are not in lieu of fixing the broken antennas. “There will be further work on some of those antennas that went down in the past 24 hours”.
While the Sat COWs may add connectivity, they offer limited service. The governor had previously explained that these satellites offer a signal range of 3 miles. Furthermore, their signal may only provide voice and text connectivity in some areas.
“The capacity of the Sat COWs is texts and phone calls. The capacity of the antennas obviously extends to provide LTE network and provide Internet. Yes, the Sat COWs in some areas are limited to texts and phone calls. However, we are establishing communications,” Rosselló said.
Given the complications with the telecommunications infrastructure, Rosselló explained that, while, the general percentage of telecommunication services is still at above 40%, users with internet service are in the 30% range.
The governor went on to say that he “recognizes” the difficulties created by this situation. “We have erected a number of antennas. We are working with the private sector so that they can handle these situations as soon as possible.”