Communications blackout hampers CNMI
Communications throughout the CNMI continue to be severely affected as a result of its sole fibre optic cable being damaged.
Communications throughout the CNMI continue to be severely affected as a result of damage to the territory's sole fibre optic cable.
The undersea link to Guam was severed by a boulder last week, cutting all phone, internet, banking and other services to the outside world.
Leilani Momoisea reports.
A limited service has since been restored by the cable's owner, Guam-based company IT&E, but our correspondent, Mark Rabago, says the outages have shown how vulnerable the CNMI is.
MARK RABAGO: There are proposals up in Capital Hill, our governmental centre, to lay down a second cable so we won't be as vulnerable and as isolated when this happens. And there are talks also of fining and even a lawsuit for IT&E because of their failure for the back-up to come up and running.
The director of public health and hospital emergency preparedness, Warren Villagomez, says a lack of internet connection has not affected patient care. But he says Saipan has the only hospital in CNMI that provides tertiary and intensive care, so it's critical to have continued communication with the two other islands, Tinian and Rota, in case emergency evacuations are needed.
WARREN VILLAGOMEZ: We were able to communicate via Sat phones to Rota and Tinian and as well as HF and VHF radio standing up as well, that was the most efficient way to go about that at this time.
The director of external relations at the Northern Marianas College, Frankie Eliptico, says the college relies heavily on social media and email to communicate with students. He says as there's very limited access to email, and social media access is slow, they're using more traditional ways of communicating.
FRANKIE ELIPTICO: Going to the fax machine, having face to face meetings, using the phone lines a lot. Pre-1990s time when the fax was one of the more advanced ways of communicating.
The tourism industry is also under pressure as the internet is a prime source of bookings. The operations supervisor for Century Hotel in Saipan, Carlos Rivera, says since the blackout they have been unable to process requests for accommodation. He says there is no definite timetable as to when the issue will be resolved, and guests are furious at not being able to connect to the internet.
CARLOS RIVERA: The guests that are currently here of course are unhappy with the situation. But I guess they've done alternate things. Instead of being cooped up in their room and using their wi-fi, they're venturing out in the island and getting more sun than they've expected.
IT&E is still awaiting a boat from Taiwan to fix the undersea fibre optic cable, and it could be up to three weeks before normal communications are restored. Meanwhile, IT&E has partnered with its business rival Docomo, to install an aerial fibre system on Rota, which is expected to increase internet speed on Saipan.
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