The president of the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Regulatory Board, Sandra Torres, said at a public hearing that currently 2,509 of the 2,659 antennas that provide telecommunications services in Puerto Rico are operational, representing 94 percent.
During a public hearing of the House Committee on Telecommunications, Planning, Public Private Partnerships and Energy, Torres said “the full restoration of telecom services is directly related to electricity service. Currently, 46 percent of the telecom infrastructure is running on power generators. This situation creates a constant problem in the reliability of services.”
The hearing chaired by Rep. Víctor Parés-Otero, who is following up on the study ordered by House Resolution 64, which is investigating the recovery of the island’s telecom after the passage of Hurricanes Irma and María last September.
The TRB official said the agency remains active to ensure that telecom companies comply with the work plans for the restoration of services throughout the island, as stated in an Administrative Order dated Oct. 10, 2017, issued by the local regulatory agency.
Parés-Otero, who penned the House measure, asked about the telecom system on the island municipality of Vieques to which Torres responded that PREPANET’s submarine cable, which delivers telecom services there was affected and providing service through Google’s “Loon” ballons was unsuccessful.
“Fixed and regionalized microwaves were placed, which have served. One was placed at the Banco Popular, so that people could perform their transactions and use the Department of the Family cards,” Torres said.
“A microwave is also installed in the Diagnostic and Treatment Center so that it can serve patients. But for the entire island municipality to have service, we need the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to repair both ends of the submarine cable. We call on PREPANET to repair the submarine cable ends to be able to restore the system in Vieques,” Torres said.
Torres admitted she has been unable to coordinate an effective communication with PREPA so the TRB can relay to the telecom companies the areas that the power utility is working on, or has already energized, so they can jointly bring telecom systems back online.