By anguillian November 27, 2017 12:26 Updated




In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Flow Anguilla was still in a position to provide up to fifty percent of its services as three of its twenty-three mobile sites remained in operation. Today, with its diligent work and responsibility to customers, the local business unit has succeeded in restoring fifteen of those mobile sites – meaning that it is now serving a wider cross-section of the community.

That said, Flow’s Country Manager, Mr. Desron Bynoe, told The Anguillian: “As it relates to our fixed restoration, I know that there are some concerns and I would like to address… There are some persons on social media who are saying that they don’t see the Flow guys in the field. I want to reassure them that although you may not be seeing them in your particular area – that our crews are out and are working diligently to restore as many customers as possible.”

He went on: “One of the reasons you may not necessarily see those crews in your area, has to do with the fact that a significant amount of our infrastructure lies underground. Unlike some of our direct competitors, who would have to complete their network because their distribution is above ground, our cables reside underground. The other aspect, speaking directly to the concerns, is that the materials we require are simply not materials that you can go to any hardware store or outlet and just buy. They have to be ordered to our specification.

“Having to order materials specific to our network, which usually take six to eight weeks, we also have to vie with a number of our neighbouring islands for the same materials. This hurricane season, as we all can appreciate, is very unique from the standpoint that usually you will have one or two islands being hit in a particular season. This year, we had in excess of probably eight islands hit causing from catastrophic to severe damage – and some more minor than in other cases. The pool is the same size and everyone wants from that pool, and so it is slowing things down. That addresses the concern of the public in that respect: why we are not further ahead than we should. However, I can reassure the public that we have received a significant quantity of material we have been awaiting. We are now getting additional crews in Anguilla, on the ground, to start operating and really pushing the restoration work as expeditiously as possible.”

Asked about specific areas of the island where the work has been done, Mr. Bynoe replied: “In The Valley, we have reconnected primarily all of our customers in that region. There may be some pockets within The Valley that are still outstanding and we are working to fill those gaps. We have done areas like Rey Hill, The Forest, George Hill – and we are working in other locations like Stoney Ground and so forth. One of the things to note is that we obviously have to follow ANGLEC with their own restoration, and we try to avoid coming directly behind ANGLEC because, usually, the company can run the high tension wires and then go back to do the low tension wires – so we stay out of their way as they try to restore power as quickly as possible.

“Moving forward, the plan is really to follow ANGLEC as closely as possible. I know that they are heavily involved in energising the east, and they are doing that because the existing infrastructure in those areas was not severely damaged like that in Blowing Point and the west. So our plan is to follow them – hence the reason we got this quantity of material in, which we are going to employ predominantly in the eastern side of the island and those other areas ANGLEC has already energised.”

Asked whether FLOW was now embarking on furthering its underground network, the Country Manager stated: “We are in a unique position in the sense that you may remember that we were getting ready to launch our superfast broadband from The Valley into the east. Therefore, we would have already placed a significant amount of infrastructure in the ground in preparation for that. There are some areas where we have done some additional underground work – and some additional trenching will have to be done to achieve that as well, but for the most part we heavily rely on ANGLEC’s poles for distribution above ground. Where poles are completely decimated we would still have to rely on ANGLEC to restore the pole route and then we will follow on their backs.”

Mr. Bynoe regretted, however, that there was a significant loss of the infrastructure which was put in for the company’s planned television service. As a result, this was now slowing down that process but, unfortunately, there was also the vandalism and theft of equipment by unknown persons.

“Aside from the natural storm there were also some man made storms as well where a lot of our equipment was vandalised,” he reported. “We have areas where we could have turned back on pretty quickly – had it not been for some of these vandalisms, so that too is slowing down the process. A specific example is in Stoney Ground where we had a lot of infrastructure that could have been reused to get customers back on, but a lot was vandalised and, as a result, we now have to wait for new equipment to be installed in those areas. Had it not been for that vandalism, we could have simply gone, power back up the equipment and serve those customers.”

Questioned about what was vandalised or stolen, he explained: “The MSANS, outside cabinet type pieces of equipment were vandalised by persons to remove the battery packs for their own personal use. In so doing, they would have damaged the boards that provide the service and the fibre patches and so forth.”

“Are you in a position to say how much money FLOW’s restoration work has cost so far?” Mr. Bynoe was asked.

“Not at this time,” he answered. “The reason is that we have done the initial damage assessment and this would have covered pretty much what the eyes could see – and what we figure needs to be replaced or does not need to replacing. It is only until we start recommissioning some of the field infrastructure that we would get a sense of what is really happening. I would say [the damage] may be in excess of a couple of million US dollars. I would imagine that in the next three to six months that we are likely to see a little more damage coming through.”

Asked whether there were any new plans to improve the company’s services, Mr. Bynoe said: “Hurricane Irma has afforded us the opportunity to start again, in some respects, and we are constantly evaluating the technology that is available to us – and as best as possible to show that brings the latest and best technologies to the Anguillian community. This is because, at the end of the day, we are trying to future proof our network as much as possible to ensure that we have something that can sustain us throughout a particular timeframe.”

In the early aftermath of the hurricane, FLOW’s large courtyard was the scene of throngs of people on a daily basis. The Anguillian asked Ms. Jade Reymond, the company’s Commercial Marketing Manager, to explain:

“While we are still in the assessment phase of the internet infrastructure, we have certain solutions for our customers and so, immediately after the storm, we started what we could instantly do. We provided charging ports and free WIFI for our customers. Since then, we have added a few products to our portfolio including the MIFI, a wireless device that offers customers internet on the go. That is one of our interim solutions. The other products that we have are LTE Boxes which are similar to the modems we use for our internet service, but these were from our mobile network.

“So we have two interim solutions for our customers which give them a vast amount of data for very affordable pricing, in the interim, while our guys are currently restoring services. There is a huge demand and we are trying our best to bring in enough products to be able to meet the needs of our customers. I am hoping that there is some appreciation, but we are asking our customers for their patience while we try to restore services.”

In supporting Ms. Reymond’s comments, Mr. Bynoe said: “As a company deeply imbedded in the Anguillian society, we couldn’t put a dollar value to it because the mission of our company is to connect communities and transform lives. As such, that is what we sought to do because that is the core of essentially what we live, how we breathe day in, day out, as a company. What we did was really to ensure that loved ones can stay in touch with each other, and we never thought about dollar value with respect to hearing a loved one on the other side in the diaspora knowing that a mother, father, brother or sister or whoever is okay. What we spend is only miniscule, in the scheme of things, to see the warmth and the love that was displayed by the community at home and abroad because they were able to stay connected.”

Mr. Bynoe added: “One of the things that really jumped out at me, during this period, is a quote that will forever stick with me – that ‘there is always an opportunity in adversity’. Everyone would have thought that with Irma the Anguillian spirit would have been knocked for six, if I may use that cricket analogy. But really and truly it was more of knowing that there were six overs left and everyone took his or her time and saw each delivery out.

“The spirit of the community is really overwhelming, and it shows the resilience of the people. As I said, there is a significant opportunity for us here in Anguilla – following Irma – and it affords the chance to rebuild stronger. It allows us to learn from past experiences and to keep going from strength to strength. For us, as a company, the hurricane has afforded us an opportunity not only to rebuild stronger, but to bring newer and more innovative technologies to the island to serve our customers.”

By anguillian November 27, 2017 12:26 Updated


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