(TrinidadGaurdian)Regular life in T&T was disrupted after TSTT’s network went down early yesterday, compromising landline, mobile and internet services on and to the network.
From as early as 6.30 am, thousands of people around the country experienced difficulties making calls on the network and those trying to make calls to TSTT lines from other providers were also unable to do so.
While the effects were experienced across both Trinidad and Tobago, Guardian Media understands the heaviest concentration of issues centred around the Port-of-Spain area.
This meant that businesses were also affected. Some groceries reported that paying through a machine via debit and credit cards was either slow or not working at all.
Despite this, Supermarket Association president, Rajiv Diptee, said the sector did not grind to a halt.
“It’s not to say that it’s a complete blackout. We are still able to communicate via WhatsApp via messages, some of us are able to communicate based on which networks we’re on,” he said.
“The reality is that we are still able to have some level of communication. Obviously, there is a concern if we need essential services, fire, ambulance, police, et cetera but for the most part I have not gotten any dire reports of anything that has, in essence, crippled operations.”
Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) president Gregory Aboud noted that there were disruptions to some business operations but did not anticipate that there would be any major impacts.
“We did not receive any report of severe complaint so we make the assumption that people have been coping. Obviously, there is a secondary service available through Digicel and this is one of the reasons why, you know, competition in the marketplace is such a good thing for the consumer,” he said.
The Ministry of Works and Transport also released a statement on its Facebook noting some disruption.
“All Licensing locations are currently experiencing a temporary disruption in the delivery of its services due to internet challenges being experienced islandwide,” the ministry said.
A video was also shared on social media showing cars lined up outside the Caroni Licensing Division office, with frustrated drivers who were hoping to conduct business but unable to do so.
First Citizens bank also reported that its customer care hotline was affected.
In an update on the situation, TSTT CEO Lisa Agard said by midday the issues on its network were rectified and offered customers free data until midnight as part of the company’s apology for the inconvenience.
In a voice note, Agard said the “isolated” disruption to services in parts of T&T was rectified by 11 am.
“We immediately dispatched our internal engineers as well as engineers from our vendors and we were able to isolate and fix the problem,” Agard said.
Despite this, some members of the public in Port-of-Spain told Guardian Media they were still experiencing issues with making calls well after midday. Up to last evening, Guardian Media was unable to place calls to any of the emergency services while using another network.
While not going into any specific details, Agard said the drop-in service was triggered by an “unexpected” problem which she admitted should not have resulted in such a widespread issue.
“We acknowledge and deeply apologise for the impact this disruption had on our customers’ connectivity and your daily routines. This incident stands as an isolated occurrence which ought not to have happened because of the several backup plans that we have in place,” she said.
“We thank our customers for their patience and continued support. To demonstrate our regret, we’ve decided that all customers will be given free data for the rest of the day until midnight tonight. Thank you for your patience.”
Former Point Fortin Mayor Abdon Mason told Guardian Media he believed TSTT underestimated the time it would take to resolve the issue.
“It is challenging for me now because I live in Point Fortin, work in Port-of-Spain and I usually maintain contact with a number of individuals throughout the day by phone and I have not been able to so do,” he said.
“Some of these things are errors and man might estimate the amount of time it will take to correct but then when they get there they might realise it’s more difficult than anticipated,” he said.
Others, like Wade Charles, said while his mobile phone was on the TSTT network, he was able to work around the disruption.
“I didn’t call anybody normal. I was using WhatsApp and I had no problem … I does use WhatsApp more. I may make a call now and then but I does more use WhatsApp,” he said.
On social media, however, people were less forgiving. Commenting under the update on CNC3 News’ Facebook page, Natasha Bohorie said, “Free data, that’s the best you all can do. What about companies and business that lost a lot because of you all.”
Up until 5 pm, Bradley Ramoutar said, there were still connectivity problems.
Citing the issues created to contact emergency services, Troy James described the incident as a national security risk.
Just over a year ago, TSTT experienced a nationwide outage after thieves made off with or damaged $1 million of critical fibre optic cables in south Trinidad, crippling their service.