Repairs to CNMI communications cable expected next week

6:50 pm on 17 July 2015

The owner of the fiber optic cable which was severed last week, plunging the Northern Marianas into a communications blackout, says a repair ship is expected to arrive from Taiwan on Wednesday.

IT&E diver checks fibre optic cable.

An IT&E diver checks the undersea fibre optic cable in the Northern Marianas. Photo: IT&E

A state of emergency was declared in the CNMI this week after the cable was severed by a boulder cutting all phone, internet, banking and other services to the territory.

The chief executive of IT&E, James Oehlerking, says the ship left Taiwan last night carrying some of the equipment needed to fix the cable, but will stop in Saipan to pick up the rest.

He says contractors should take two days to repair the cable, which is expected to cost 2 million US dollars.

However, Mr Oehlerking wouldn't commit to a date when normal service will resume in the CNMI.

Meanwhile, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce says some businesses on the island lost tens of thousands of dollars for each day they were unable to access the internet.

The chamber's president, Alexander Sablan sab-LAHN, says stores that required an internet connection for credit card swiping, particularly suffered.

"I know one of the major shopping centres on this island is losing about 20 thousand dollars a day on average, because they did not have access to their swipe machines for almost five days. We know of hotels that are losing out on internet sales which is in more recent years a significant part of their business model."

Alexander Sablan says businesses can't operate at full capacity until the cable is fixed, which is expected to be at least two weeks.

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