AT&T to take mobile antennas to 7 Puerto Rico towns
SAN JUAN – Due to telecommunication difficulties that Puerto Rico has faced in the eight days since the passage of Category 4 Hurricane María, AT&T will bring several mobile antennas or “cell on wings” (CoW) satellites to provide signal in at least seven municipalities and bordering areas, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced.
The announcement comes at a time when telecom services operate at a 28.5 percent capacity, 1.5 percentage points more than two days ago, as many of the towers were affected by winds up to 155 miles per hour.
The municipalities that will initially benefit from this emergency measure will be Ponce, Mayagüez, Arecibo, Río Grande, Humacao, Cidra and Aguadilla.
“AT&T will bring these mechanisms, and today [Thursday] the [mobile antenna] of Ponce will be installed, giving us greater access to communication,” the governor announced at a press conference in Miramar’s Convention Center, the government’s current command center for the post-storm emergency. He was accompanied by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives, as well as several U.S. Armed Forces officials.
The governor added that Mayagüez, which lost connectivity for nearly five days, “has AT&T, Claro and T-Mobile cell service.” In addition, Sprint customers will have access to coverage from these companies because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a “relief.”
As communications improve, emergency services can reach places that require them, the government has said on several occasions.
Cash problem addressed
Rosselló also announced that at least 86 bank branches islandwide were now operating, which is expected to improve the long lines at the few working ATMs. More than 40 credit unions are also open on the island, offering emergency loans.
The issue has driven thousands of Puerto Ricans to despair for not being able to withdraw cash while facing the difficulty of acquiring fuel, food and water due to problems with telecommunications that also affect credit and debit card transactions.
The governor said that Evertec’s commercial transaction processing system, the most used on the island, “was repaired.” This means the ability to perform electronic transactions should normalize in tandem with the restoration of electric and connectivity service.
Who are priority for Prepa?
As for the reestablishment of power service at a time when practically the entire island has been in the dark since the hurricane, the governor said that service was restored to the island’s main hospital, the Medical Center of Río Piedras,
Other areas with electric service are in Bayamón, near the San Pablo Hospital, which has had power for a few days, and Mayagüez, specifically the Medical Center in the western region.
“Today we will be working to power the [Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport], the Convention Center, Crowley’s pier, the [police] general headquarters, Nemesio Canales [low-income housing], the pump in Baldorioty [Avenue], the Choliseo [José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum]—main private collection center—the Corco [Commonwealth Oil Refinery Co.] and Peerless [Oil and Chemicals Inc.], which will further help fuel distribution. These are the priorities for power today,” he said.
The governor said that to the extent the Electric Power Authority (Prepa) can power these areas, access to fuel and the distribution of supplies will be improved. The priority for the public corporation—which like the central government faces bankruptcy under Title III of the Promesa federal law—is to restore service at hospitals.
The process has been slow since nearly 80 percent of the island’s energy distribution infrastructure sustained significant damage after the hurricane.