Telecom providers say networks stable as Fiona rips through Puerto Rico
As Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm, wireless companies confirmed their systems for both voice and internet were stable and will continue to run on batteries and diesel during the island wide power interruption that may take days to restore.
The power went out across the island around mid-afternoon Sunday, and shortly thereafter Luma Energy — the company that oversees the island’s transmission and distribution service — put out a statement staying the “electric system has experienced several transmission line outages,” leading to the blackout.
“Given the size and scope of the outage, as well as ongoing impacts of Hurricane Fiona, full power restoration could take several days. We have the team, the tools, and the resources in place to respond to this event,” the company stated.
“We ask our customers for their support and patience as our Luma crews are working hard to restore power during what is an incredibly challenging and dangerous storm. We are coordinating with the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau and other agencies and will continue to keep our customers updated,” it stated.
“Until now, the fiber rings and the distribution facilities of our fixed and mobile networks are stable with generators and/or batteries where there’s no electricity service,” said Naji Khoury, CEO of Liberty Communications.
“Most of the lack of service in homes is due to the outage. Our mobile network is 100% operational, including the First Net emergency service network,” said Khoury.
Liberty Communications confirmed it will send out its crews once it’s safe, as it monitors its network from several command centers throughout Puerto Rico.
“We have materials and additional parts available throughout the regions if they’re needed. All emergency generators in our facilities and networks have been checked and fueled,” he said.
“Additionally, we validated that the system for emergency alerts sent by the government is active,” he said.
Meanwhile, Claro de Puerto Rico had 95% of clients online Sunday. Service was available to 75% of fixed internet customers. The company reported having 17% of its radio bases without electricity when the power went out in the early afternoon, which affected 5% of its customers, said Claro CEO Enrique Ortiz de Montellano.
“Our contingency plan includes generators that continue to offer services as long as we continue to deliver fuel, which is not a problem,” he said, urging customers to use text messaging over voice to avoid overloading the network.
T-Mobile Puerto Rico issued a statement saying, “we’re actively monitoring this system and the interruption to our network by the outage. As soon as weather conditions allow it, and it’s safe for our staff, we’ll deploy our brigades to refuel generators affected by the lack of electricity. We have batteries and generators and an agile refueling plan in times of emergencies.”
As for what customers in Puerto Rico had to say, News is my Business ran an informal poll on Twitter in which most of the people who responded said they still had both wireless and fixed internet working. A very small group stated they had no service, mentioning all three carriers in their specific cases.
There were several respondents who confirmed that their internet speeds dropped significantly, while others said they lost their 5G service, throttling down to 4G.