Of all the problems unleashed by recent hurricanes, the failure of communications networks is one of the most worrying issues for Caribbean territories grappling with uphill recovery efforts.
Among the islands hardest hit are Anguilla, Barbuda, Dominica, Turks and Caicos, and the British Virgin Islands, all of which are served by the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN).
“Our hearts go out to everyone who’s been affected by the multiple hurricanes that we’ve had in Florida, Texas and many of the islands of the Caribbean. ARIN stands ready to help where we can be most effective,” said Nate Davis, Chief Operating Officer of ARIN.
The increased intensity of severe weather events pounding the islands is putting a spotlight on the need to improve critical Internet infrastructure in the region.
“We’re right now trying to inventory equipment that might be available, should it prove useful to the folks in Caribbean who are trying to recover from this. We also have technical staff that can be made available should the circumstances be appropriate and they can be effective as well.”
By some estimates, Caribbean relief and recovery efforts after Hurricanes Irma and Maria could cost up to $1 billion. John Curran, CEO of ARIN, described the situation as “unprecedented”.
“ARIN stands by our members in all of the affected territories, and we offer our sympathy and condolences to anyone who suffered loss. It has been a most tragic situation, one that we have been keenly observing,” he said.
Serving as a focal point in directing ARIN’s efforts and resources towards the regional recovery effort is ARIN’s representative for the region.
“Bevil Wooding has been appointed as our Caribbean Outreach Liaison and is working with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and other agencies in the region to make sure that we are able to mobilize our diverse membership in support of regional network recovery and connectivity,” Curran said.
Wooding is also the co-founder of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), a volunteer-based group that develops resources and training related to the management, security and resilience of networks in the region.
“Recent events have riveted the attention of technology practitioners and observers, who are reasonably asking questions like ‘Why did entire territories go offline? Why were our countries and disaster preparedness and relief agencies so ill-prepared? Why did we have such a catastrophic failure in telecommunications infrastructure?’” Wooding said.
Some experts expect storms and other extreme weather to become stronger and more devastating in the future.
"There's an urgent need for the Caribbean to confront issues such as network resilience, protection of critical Internet infrastructure and more effective use of information and communications technology in disaster preparedness and response," Wooding added.