Saipan residents find silver lining in telecomm outage - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Saipan residents find silver lining in telecomm outage

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It's been four days since the telecommunications crisis in the CNMI first began. IT&E crews worked around the clock over the weekend to restore greater connectivity to Guam and the CNMI - this following the communication outage that stemmed from damage to IT&E's main undersea fiber cable last week. The damaged cable resulted in a total loss of communication out of Saipan.

While most services have been restored to Guam, Rota, and Tinian, IT&E has reported the restoration of land line, long-distance prepaid, and limited Internet services in Saipan as of Sunday. Jillian Angeline, a reporter at KSPN2 in Saipan's tells KUAM News, "It's basically a dial-up system that we're dealing with right now so yesterday around 11:30pm I was able to go online, and I was able to check my email, but no emails were opening, I could see them all there, but no emails were opening."

She said residents could be seen sitting on top of cars, stretching out their phones trying to get service.

But for some, phone problems were the least of their worries. "Government payday was on Friday - the Department of Finance told us that they had to manually print 1,500 checks," said Angeline.

According to Angeline, the Department of Finance, along with several other businesses may consider relocating to Tinian until full communication services are restored to Saipan. "It was a real cash crisis up until Friday because all the ATMs were down; the ATMs were starting to come back up as of Friday afternoon," she explained. But aside from banking, Angeline says tourism was impacted the most, suffering from cancelled flights and limited credit card capabilities at hotels.

Meanwhile Angeline said Saipan residents are also using creative means to reach their families across the globe. "I'm able to talk to my family in New Jersey through a landline at home and I have coworkers that are giving me messages and then I'm dictating it to my mom to email their families in the Philippines," she said.

On a brighter note, Angeline said many people were actually relieved by the outage, saying, "It gives people a chance to connect and look up from their phones and talk to the people next to them and have that physical connection." And while banking and tourism took a hit, she says the DVD industry is now booming.

Pacific Telecom, Inc. CEO Jim Oehlerking says pending favorable weather conditions in the CNMI, full repair could be completed within the next 12 days. 

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