Culebra expected to have cellphone service restored Friday
SAN JUAN – Communications service in the island-municipality of Culebra could be partially restored Friday as brigades from several companies and the Electric Power Authority (Prepa) worked with the only telecommunications tower there, which was affected by Hurricane Irma on Wednesday night.
Sandra Torres, the president of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board (JRT by its Spanish initials), also told Caribbean Business that at least 19 percent of Liberty Cablevision customers have had their services reestablished.
“Finally, Claro Puerto Rico managed to board trucks, equipment, networks [sic] and a generator [on the ferry] to power telecommunication services in Culebra. [It is expected that] this afternoon, at 6 p.m., we could have the hospital and a great part of Culebra [with telephone access], and Banco Popular will also be able to do ATM transactions,” Torres said.
The official explained that Culebra was left completely unreachable because its only communications tower suffered damages caused by Hurricane Irma’s winds. The island-municipality suffered the harshest winds of the weather phenomenon that is on its way to Florida.
This led Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to request disaster declarations of the federal government for Vieques and Culebra.
“Culebra was left completely without communication. Yesterday [Thursday] we tried to send a generator and [telecom company] personnel via ferry and helicopter. It wasn’t until today [Friday] during the day that we could send vehicles from Claro and Neptune…to power Culebra’s tower and be able to provide service,” Torres said.
Signal problem will continue until electric service repaired
The JRT president stressed that, although there were 781 telecommunications towers damaged Thursday, that number was reduced to 431 Friday after the work done by several brigades.
She explained that it is difficult to determine the number of people with signal problems on their cellphones because the connection could vary depending on the location.
However, she said the problems will continue as long as the 431 towers that are failing have no power, which is the main problem identified. Even though towers have batteries and generators to operate if power service fails, they are often robbed, so some don’t have their generators.
Liberty’s services slowly restored
Meanwhile, Torres said 19 percent of Liberty’s customers recovered their services Friday. This represents 7,850 internet subscribers, 48,407 cable subscribers and 39,835 voice subscribers. The official did not have the current number of customers without service, although it could be estimated at more than half a million for all three services.
Torres explained that brigades of Liberty workers as well as other cable and internet companies are sent out daily with Prepa’s brigades to determine what affected the service and to restore it. She said more detail about what factors caused the service interruptions should be available next week.
Although Torres estimated that all Liberty customers lost service after Hurricane Irma, the company clarified Thursday that 10 percent was connected.