INTERNET PROVIDERS BATTLE TO LIMIT DISRUPTION WHEN A STORM HITS
By TIM SMITH
In the new work-from-home era, losing your internet access can have more serious consequences than ever before.
But with high winds downing cables and causing cell towers to become misaligned, outages are inevitable when a major storm hits Bermuda.
One Communications and Digicel both said they had rigorous processes in place and staff on standby to minimise disruption.
“Major storms can cause service disruptions due to storm and wind damage to infrastructure as well as power outages across the island,” a spokeswoman for One Communications said.
“With the hurricane season approaching we are equipped to respond to any impact that may arise from storms.
“Our goal is always to prioritise and restore services for as many customers as quickly as possible and as soon as it is safe for our teams to do so.”
She said the company had made significant investments in its fibre infrastructure to improve the resiliency of its network and invested in numerous monitoring applications to receive real-time updates on any services and impacted areas.
“Our priority is to keep our customers, families and community connected,” she said.
“Our teams work year-round to ensure our networks and infrastructures are prepared. One Communications constructions teams conduct repeat damage assessments alongside Belco to determine any preventative measures to limit damage.
“We also work with our partners on vegetation management to clear foliage that could cause issues as we enter hurricane season.”
As a storm approaches, the company ensures the right people and tools are in place, including stationing construction and maintenance teams east of the Causeway in case it is unsafe to cross after the storm.
The spokeswoman said: “Once the storm has passed and it is safe to do so, damage assessments begin alongside other utility companies. A command centre operates from our main office with status meetings two or three times a day to ensure the teams are progressing as efficiently as possible while assessing priority.
“We are thankful to our hardworking teams who work around the clock before and after storms to maintain and restore communications.”
One Communications carries out post mortem assessments after each storm to see how its business continuity plan can be improved.
Digicel also said it has a rigorous hurricane preparation process involving a documented series of maintenance routines covering structures, mobile sites, standby power facilities and plant infrastructure.
A spokeswoman said: “We have a core group of network engineers, mechanics and facilities personnel who monitor our platforms, service and refuel generators and deal with any major issues in real time as long as it is safe to do so.”
She named the double-hurricane hit of Fay and Gonzalo in 2014 as the worst storm-related experience at Digicel.
“As soon as we would have normally been on the path to recovery, we were taking cover again almost immediately,” she said.
The spokeswoman advised customers to wait 24 hours for Digicel to assess damage and start its recovery process, noting that between 85 and 95 per cent capability usually resumes within 48 hours of winds subsiding.
For fixed line services, it normally takes two to three days for technicians to assess the network and work on major cable issues and infrastructure damage. Assuming Belco power has been restored, anyone still without service at that point should call Digicel’s customer care department.
Meanwhile One Communications can now give customers up-to-date information regarding the status of their internet connection at onecomm.bm/my-connection/. Customers can access this from their mobile device.
Advice to customers:
Ensure all battery-powered devices are fully charged before the storm
Top up prepaid phones
Unplug televisions, modems and media box players into a surge protector to protect them from damage in case of a sudden power outage
Use a battery-operated radio for storm updates.