Phone and Internet outage worries telecoms regulator

Tuesday’s phone and Internet outage, caused by a lightning strike that affected an underwater cable connecting Cayman to the digital world, has regulators with the Information and Communications Technology Authority worried about the country’s telecom infrastructure.

ICTA says it will get together with Cayman’s four network providers to work on solutions to improve the country’s digital infrastructure and its off-island connections.

Information Communications and Technology Authority Managing Director Alee Fa'amoe
Information Communications and Technology Authority Managing Director Alee Fa’amoe

The Cayman Islands, like other island nations, relies on undersea cables to connect to the global Internet and to connect the territory’s telephone networks. A lightning strike on the cable system where it comes ashore near Miami knocked out much of Cayman’s Internet for several hours Tuesday and caused problems with calling between phone providers.

Alee Fa’amoe, ICTA managing director, said in a press release, “The Authority is very concerned that a single point of failure could have such far-reaching effects on all telecommunications networks in the Cayman Islands, and all four of our main telecommunications licensees share the same sentiment.

“Telecommunications is part of our critical national infrastructure, and we must do everything we can to ensure it is as robust and flexible as possible.”

The working group will include ICTA, FLOW, Logic, C3 and Digicel.

Carolyn Lawe-Smith, a spokeswoman for FLOW in Cayman, said the outage lasted about three hours for the company’s customers, and made it difficult to call phones from other service providers. She said in an email, “While the damage also impacted our voicemail, all other services were maintained, including the ability to call the emergency services.”

Logic spokeswomen Pamela Small said, “The failure deteriorated Logic Internet service and prevented off-network phone services.” She said Logic services were restored at about 9 p.m. Tuesday.

FLOW and Logic customers did not have problems reaching 911, according to the two spokeswomen.

Some Digicel customers could not call 911 during the outage, according to ICTA.

“Access to the Public Safety Communications Centre is critical,” Mr. Fa’amoe said. “Calls to 911 should not be impacted by the type of outage experienced on Tuesday evening. We will have to examine that particular failure separately and determine if further action is required.”