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Communications Technology

Disaster Recovery For Haiti's Cell Phone Networks 139

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the what-the-world-needs-now dept.
spun writes "A disaster recovery team from Trilogy International Partners, LLC was among the first responders to arrive after the quake in Haiti. After seeing to the safety of their staff, they worked quickly to bring up emergency generators and restore service to the devastated country. Winners of a State Department medal for their previous work in Haiti, the company appears to be a model not only for proper disaster recovery response, but also for ethical corporate behavior. Their quick action has no doubt saved thousands of lives, but Haiti still needs our help." Keith Calder, who used to work on Slashdot ad stuff before we had big corporate owners, is now a film producer of last summer's Battle for Terra. They are giving away signed copies of the DVD to the first 100 people who make $25+ red cross donations. It would be cool to see generous Slashdot Sci-Fi fans make a difference. If you are curious or voyeuristic about the devastation, Google Maps has satellite photos.
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Disaster Recovery For Haiti's Cell Phone Networks

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  • Many Avenues to Help (Score:5, Informative)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday January 14, 2010 @12:07PM (#30766504) Homepage Journal

    I wrote a journal entry earlier today about some of what the organization I work for is doing in Haiti [slashdot.org]. There are a lot of others in play too and some great ways to help. Hopefully after this stops being the story of the hour, the assistance will continue so that country can come out of this with some kind of up side to it all.
     
      The Navy is on the way [neptunuslex.com] and as a former sailor I'm pretty proud to see them rushing to help as they so often do. Helicopters are going to be key for quite a while I think.
     
    We'll see the world step up in a big way here I think, and once again we'll see one of the nicer sides of America and how this country can be very generous in times of crisis - not just our government but in the direct giving and participation of the citizenry.

    • by jgtg32a (1173373) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @12:17PM (#30766690)

      Aircraft Carriers are very nice in these kind of situations, a clear airfield and IIRC those things can produce a lot of fresh water.

    • by spun (1352) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `yranoituloverevol'> on Thursday January 14, 2010 @12:29PM (#30766890) Journal

      The hospital ship Comfort is on the way and so is the supercarrier Carl Vinson, which can provide power and over 100,000 gallons of desalinated water per day. The problems facing Haiti were severe even before this disaster, but afterwords, what little government they did have has, quite literally, collapsed. In other recent disasters, there has at least been continuity of civil government and some kind of coordinated response from within the country. That is simply not possible in this case. Even the UN headquarters there has collapsed.

      One of the first things our military did was to get air traffic control up and functioning. The control tower at the airport had collapsed, and there is simply no power in Port-au-Prince. The US cutter Forward was among the first on the scene, and began directing flights into the country. U.S. Southern Command dispatched a team of 30 engineers, planners and a command and control group to Haiti on a Puerto Rico Air National Guard C-130 Hercules, which arrived soon afterwords and took over this vital function.

      The biggest problem is going to be getting things out of the airport and to the people that need it. Reports indicate that the harbor is badly damaged and supplies will need to be trans-shipped through the Dominican Republic and driven into Haiti. This seems to me to be a job for the Seabees [wikipedia.org]. Does anyone know if the Nimitz class supercarriers like the Carl Vinson carry LCACs [wikipedia.org]?

      • No - a cvn can't support landing craft like that - but the gator navy stuff will. The USS Bataan is an amphib - the USS Fort McHenry and USS Carter Hall are dock landing ships. They'll be able to get significant equipment and material to land. And I'm sure the airforce will be bringing heavy lifters in to the airport.

        • by spun (1352)

          The airport is badly backed up at the moment. I'm amazed that as much material made it onto the runway as it did. Pilots on the ground were performing rough traffic control from their cockpits. Although the roads are not too badly damaged, the problem is really a lack of vehicles. Getting supplies off the planes, onto some kind of vehicles, and out to refuge camps will take some planning and coordination.

          This kind of projection of US power does worlds of good for our public image around the world. Haiti is

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            "This kind of projection of US power does worlds of good for our public image around the world. Haiti is right in our back yard. Let's show the world what the US can do when disaster strikes."
            As a US citizen I dare the rest of the world to try and make us look bad. Let's you put in more help than the US and do it faster!

            Honestly I don't care what the rest of the world thinks of the US. I just want as much help there as fast as it can get there so try and show us up.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by spun (1352)

              I just want as much help there as fast as it can get there so try and show us up.

              Sure, as do I. But it is important to note that there are other avenues of diplomacy than guns. If you want to get as much help there (and to the next place) as fast as possible, support a political party that actually funds the USAID. [usaid.gov] It will do more for our national security than any amount of purely military funding.

              • by LWATCDR (28044)

                I don't give a rats ass about politics. And now is not the time to say this party is better than that.
                They all suck!
                So shut up and give some money to the Red Cross or the charity of your choice.

                • by spun (1352)

                  I'm studiously NOT saying one party is better than another. I'm saying, make sure whatever party you DO support, supports USAID. Don't let anyone try to tell you it's a waste of money.

                  I've donated $100 already, and am researching which charities to give more to.

                  • by LWATCDR (28044)

                    Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and Catholic Charities are all good choices. They are in country and all have a good rep for getting help to the people that need it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by edittard (805475)

            Getting supplies off the planes, onto some kind of vehicles, and out to refuge camps will take some planning and coordination.

            How about mules? Bonus - they're edible!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        Man, these are the moments, where I am proud to be human. There may be much evil going on. But sometimes we just seem to switch to another mode. Where we work together and act for the good of us all.

        Maybe we humans just have too comfortable lives. Cavemen were small groups who had to work in that mode, to survive.
        Like the Hadza [nationalgeographic.com] for example.
        I’m of course not saying that I want more catastrophes. Just more of that outside-normal-rules teamwork.
        We would already be much further in evolution...

      • 50,000+ dead... wait, don't a lot of people practice Voodo in Haiti? ... and Pat Robertson says they have a pact with the devil ... hang on... Sweet Jumping Jehoshaphat! It's happening! WWZ! No wonder we're sending a carrier.
      • by rubi (910818)
        That kind of ship, and also heavy machinery is what is needed. I have two brother working with the relief efforts by the Dominican Republic army and they tell me there are no streets (the buidings collapsen on the streets) and people just walk over the rubble. The D.R. government already (since yesterday morning) has an effort providing food, water and medical assistance, but are getting overwhelmed by the quantity of hurt people. Even hospitals in the D.R. as far as 150+ miles from Haiti are full of perso
        • by spun (1352)

          Not only are streets blocked by rubble, but where they aren't, they are blocked by desperate people afraid to enter any buildings. Adding to this, there was very little in the way of heavy equipment available in Haiti even before this earthquake. It needs to be shipped or airlifted in, and then used to cut a path to the worst hit areas.

      • by mdmarkus (522132)
        The Comfort is not on its way as of 1300. It was in port in Baltimore.
        • by spun (1352)

          Ah, sorry, I was misinformed. It looks like the Comfort can require up to five days for activation. Here's hoping they get it underway quicker than that, if possible. It can do, what? 17 knots? It will still take 3-4 days to sail down to Haiti after it leaves Baltimore.

    • by copponex (13876) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @02:23PM (#30769036) Homepage

      The reason Haiti is in the shithole is because it's been occupied and abused by foreign powers. We've been involved since the end of the 19th Century, when legendary Marine Smedley Butler, in his own words, "was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism... I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in."

      Haiti was occupied by the United States from 1915-1934. Since then, marines have been sent to Haiti numerous times. The CIA played both sides of Duvalier while his paramilitary force, the Tonton Macoute, assassinated dissidents and anyone who dared oppose Papa Doc. In a final embarrassment to the Haitian people and to the very idea of democracy itself, the Bush Administration sent the Marines to help finalize the coup in 2004 by kidnapping Aristide and sending him to Africa, once again throwing the nation into chaos.

      It's good that the US Government is assisting the Haitian people during the disaster, and I never discount the generosity of the American public. Just don't be surprised if they don't treat us like friends.

      A new book on the subject, Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment by Peter Hallward, scrupulously documents the events leading up to February 29, 2004, and concludes that what occurred during the "rebellion" was in fact a modern coup d'état, financed and orchestrated by forces allied with the US government. Hallward provides extensive documentation for his claims in interviews he has given on the subject. -Wikipedia

      • by spun (1352)

        I'm sure a lot of people don't realize just how culpable we are in Haiti's misery. We can't change the past, but we can do better in the future.

        • by rubi (910818)

          That situation is the same with all the european conuntries that had "colonies" in America, especially Spain. My reasoning is that because the people that TODAY make up the country did not live trough that period, and history is such a boring subject for many, the knowledge about historic causality about today's situation y most countries below the US-Mexico border is ignored by the people.

          At the time of the colonies, most of us were teached only to be slaves and not have any initiative, and that is why any

          • by spun (1352)

            Well, the colonial period of Europe may have ended long ago, but the US has continued it's own imperial goals in this hemisphere right up to the present day. I think if we just got out of the way, and stopped installing puppet tyrants, the people of Central and South America, and the Caribbean, would do just fine.

            I want to stress that I do not hate America. We are a great country, and capable of great good. But first, we must learn to do no harm.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Caribbean mobile operator Digicel Group Ltd. said Wednesday that its network in Haiti is still providing domestic and international phone service after a major earthquake devastated the country."
    Digicel have also gotten their network in Haiti back working again. http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100113-709435.html?mod=WSJ_latestheadlines

    • by spun (1352)

      Digicel has also donated $5,000,000 in cash to Haiti. To put that in perspective, Chase Manhattan donated $1,000,000, less than a single one of their executives made in bonuses this year.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by grcumb (781340)

        Digicel has also donated $5,000,000 in cash to Haiti. To put that in perspective, Chase Manhattan donated $1,000,000, less than a single one of their executives made in bonuses this year.

        I organised a bit of emergency aid delivery with some folks from Digicel Pacific in the days following the Samoan tsunami that left thousands of people homeless. Not only are they very good at logistics, they also actually care about the people they serve. With their assistance, we were able to deliver solar/wind-up radios to affected families quickly and efficiently. Digicel shipped them for free and even paid for a bunch of them themselves.

        This is due in no small part to the fact that Digicel is privately

        • by rubi (910818)

          deleted I suspect that publicly owned corps just don't have the freedom to actually express humanitarian interest the way a private corp would.deleted

          True, but this is mostly because the "executives" (execu-tigres, they are called in D.R.) don't want to take the risk of reducing their bonuses, remember that they are run by followers of the God named "Money" and nothing else matters. Any "corporate social responsibility" announcements aren't anything more than public relations

          As you can see, I don't trust corporations too much, I have seen them flip on hyper-loyal employees for simple things

  • by fermion (181285) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @12:27PM (#30766850) Homepage Journal
    There are many complaints about government interference in free enterprise, but I think the financial crisis, in which banks loaned money to people with no income with the assumption that they would flip these properties, or cash out the equity as the property appreciated, and therefore the knowledge that the buyers had no stake in the property, and this crisis in Hatia, pretty much shows that one function of government is to develop and enforce proper standards to insure the security of the country.

    The reports indicate that Hatia has received significant financial support from the international community in the past. The reports indicate that the government has not used this money wisely, i.e. to develop infrastructure and insure safety. The reports indicate that money existed to make at least some building and some private dwelling safe, but such a thing was never done. We had people paying for modern building that would survive anything but earthquakes. At least the resources should have been put into place to make building that did not immediately kill the occupants. I understand that money was not widely available, and Hatia barely has a government, but I think we can take some lessons on what the minimum responsibility of a government must be from this example.

    • Yeah, we're talking about Haiti [wikipedia.org] here, not Hatia [wikipedia.org].
    • by istartedi (132515) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @01:25PM (#30767934) Journal

      I always think about this during disasters too. Yes, complaining about the permitting process is a favorite sport. When 50,000 die someplace else and fewer than 100 die here in a similar event, then you understand what it's all about. OTOH, how many deaths are caused because people are homeless and/or don't have health care because permitted structures are more expensive? Death due to disaster is easily measured so the permitting process looks like a winner. Deaths due to opportunity cost are more difficult to measure, so we just don't know.

      Unfortunately, this is Haiti. The point is moot. They've had a hard enough time keeping a stable government and figuring out how to deal with their limited resources. They should be so lucky someday, to get to the point where they are complaining about the permitting process.

      • by Agripa (139780)

        I always think about this during disasters too. Yes, complaining about the permitting process is a favorite sport. When 50,000 die someplace else and fewer than 100 die here in a similar event, then you understand what it's all about.

        The permitting process may start out that way but all too often it is captured by other interests and becomes a political tool for rent seeking.

  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Thursday January 14, 2010 @12:36PM (#30767022)

    Devastating... [boston.com]

    • The saddest part of it all is you see greed shining through many of the relief organizations. They're asking for money instead of supplies. [cnn.com] I didn't realize that Haitians thrive on eating dollar bills, and repair the damaged buildings using nothing but quarters. I know that those organizations don't already have enough EMERGENCY-USEFUL supplies stockpiled, and the money isn't going directly into transporting and distributing those supplies, so the answer is: they're all taking advantage of this disaster.
      • by compro01 (777531)

        Buying power. They can get a lot more supplies per dollar than you can.

        For example, the local food bank here can purchase about $1.50 worth of food for every $1.00 of donations as they buy in bulk and can purchase further up the supply chain.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @02:35PM (#30769268) Journal
        I'm sure that they'd be more than happy to talk to somebody with the right supplies.

        The trouble is, if you ask for in-kind donations, you are liable to get everybody's expired canned fruitcake and the contents of their secondary sock drawer. At best, that requires a lot of sorting. At worst, you have to pay to dispose of somebody else's trash, while they pat themselves on the back. I'm sure that if somebody who actually knows something about what sorts of supplies are useful called up and offered a pallet of them, the answer would be yes.

        It's like computers. If you are operating on any scale, ad-hoc donations of everybody's random emachines would be worse than useless. Unless you have massive amounts of free labor, and a lot of time, you'd be stuck in driver hell until the sun burns out. So, you are much better off with cash, which can easily be converted into pallets of identical machines in known shape. This doesn't mean, of course, that you would say no to somebody offering a pallet of identical hardware; but you'd be an idiot to tell the public that they could dump anything old and computer shaped on you and then feel warm and fuzzy about it.
      • They want money because when people send stuff it makes the situation worse [globalpost.com] rather than better.

      • by kent_eh (543303) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @05:27PM (#30771922)
        1) How do you propose to drive that truck load of food you donated from your location to Haiti? It's an island, y'know.
        2) Money is a lot more portable than stuff. It will be used to buy supplies (at wholesale prices and quantities) close to where it's needed.
        3) Like it or not, transportation of emergency supplies and volunteers into the disaster area costs money.
  • What about an air-droppable military grade (i.e., MIL-STD) device with a generator/battery/solar power source that sets up a cellular phone hot spot, and can link with the national carrier?

    There are plenty of technical hurdles to overcome, but if they're recoverable and 'inexpesive' enough to deploy on a one-to-two week bases. It would allow for rapid dissemination of communication signals across a disaster area while the more permanent infrastructure is brought back online.

    • by kent_eh (543303)
      Something like a C.O.W [wikipedia.org]?
      Those are probably being deployed. already. Any smart network operator owns a few.

      They do have to be compatible with the operator's existing hardware, though. Which means (in spite of standards) they have to be from the same vendor as the network's existing cell sites.

      I have personal (and painful) experience trying to get Nortel GSM base station equipment to work with an Ericsson GSM BSC. Even though the interfaces were both designed to the same spec, the proprietary "enhanceme
  • Based on the media I have seen, Haiti's cell and land line phone infrastructure went down as well as all their other media with the exception of many Internet Protocol connections. Almost all the communications we are seeing in the media are internet media.

    It reminds me of the old joke that the whole airplane should be made of the same material as the black box recorder. What is the difference between their Internet infrastructure and all their other communications? Maybe they ought to rebuild their new

    • by spun (1352)

      Quick question, how do you suppose the IP connections are carried? What you are seeing are almost communications done over cell phone networks, either before they lost power, or after it was brought back up. I mean, think about it. No land lines. No cell phones. What is carrying the Internet connections, satellite? What is providing the power? Yeah, nothing. It's ALL cell phones.

      • sat terminals (Score:2, Informative)

        by zogger (617870)

        40 sat terminals are being established, along with 60 broadband terminals, from the ITU. A lot of stuff has to be moved in, because so much was destroyed

        http://www.itu.int/newsroom/press_releases/2010/02.html [itu.int]

        I was looking at various pics of the destruction, and it is trite and often used, but it looks like a major giant airforce just carpet bombed the place.

        I have never been there, but based on other articles I have read about real poor areas with cellphones, a lot of the people depend on charging kiosks /

    • by mikem170 (698970)
      Perhaps it is satellite based internet, running off generators...?
    • by compro01 (777531)

      Text requires ridiculously little bandwidth compared to voice traffic, so it can tolerate a lot more degradation of service.

      With the amount of bandwidth-time required for 3 seconds of GSM voice traffic, you could send an entire novel worth of text.

    • by Heyshen (1633601)
      That is because a lot of the companies and the wealthier people have internet connections via satellite. They either use Direcway (now Hughesnet) or StarBand. They also have backup generators and power inverters with batteries. Not only that, there are a number of wireless ISP's that do not rely on the Cellular network. They are also connected to the internet via satellite. They do not use as many towers thus are easier to maintain.
  • My brother pilots a DC-3 for Missionary Flights International [missionaryflights.org] out of Fort Pierce, Florida, and recently posted this status update on Facebook:

    Many people have been asking how to help with the relief work in Haiti...we've been directing people to the MFI website www.missionaryflights.org The website gives a donation needs list as well as an online donation link for a Disaster Relief fund. We flew to Haiti with relief supplies today and I get to go tomorrow...

    The relevant link is here [missionaryflights.org], but it looks like supply donations have to be dropped off locally, so that may only make sense for people who live in the area. I'm sure monetary donations would be happily accepted from everyone, though, regardless of where you live!

    • by spun (1352)

      From the link:

      A survey team and several hundred water purification kits were on board.

      Good job, getting people out of the rubble is obviously first priority, but many thousands more will die unless clean water is provided within a few days.

      Although I'm agnostic myself, I have to commend the Christians of the world for their quick response. Except for Pat Robertson, who's quick response [go.com] was, 'Haiti made a pact with the devil when they revolted against French rule, therefore, this is God's punishment." But then, that's what he always says, isn't it?

  • by RichMan (8097) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @01:37PM (#30768210)

    Checkout http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/External_debt_of_Haiti
    And a few of the external links.

    This has been a man made disaster for 200 years. We should also respond to the man made act as well.

  • "We have a relationship with one organization, Batay Ouvriye, and are putting our resources and time into helping Batay Ouvriye to help rebuild from the catastrophe and maintain the struggle for a better Haiti and a better world. Batay Ouvriye is a combative grassroots worker and peasant?s organization in Haiti with workers organized all over Haiti, especially in the Industrial sweatshops and Free Trade Zones. We have set up a means to send money to Batay Ourviye. If others wish to send money to Batay Ouvri

  • "[Doctors Without Borders] has already treated more than 1,000 people on the ground in Haiti following Tuesday's earthquake, but the needs are huge. An inflatable hospital with operating theatres is expected to arrive in the next 24 hours." https://donate.doctorswithoutborders.org/ [doctorswit...orders.org]
  • "what-the-world-needs-now" is better than the "twist-and-shout" attached to the Chinese earthquake. "Funny-not-appropriate" can be used as well.

  • the company appears to be a model not only for proper disaster recovery response, but also for ethical corporate behavior

    Why is giving away for free something of value (I assume) "ethical behavior"? Is charging a fee for work performed "unethical"?

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