January 21, 2010

Looks like I spoke too soon the other day when I said a bunch of bloggers saved the Haitian internet. What it looks like is, we only kept it on life support for a week.

Reynold Guerrier, the lone network engineer left to operate the country's internet NAP (network access point), yesterday emailed U.S. military and State Department officials, "The main concern is to have communications system between the government HQ (20 endpoints), 10 clusters (2 endpoints for each) and the 10 City hall offices (2 for each).

"By communication systems, I mean phones, wireless connectivity, VoIP server and SIP/H.323 phones."

In response to the pressure from all sides, fuel was provided to keep the generator going that is operating the hub. (The country's submarine internet cables were destroyed in the quake, and this fuel-powered NAP is now the only connection between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.)

Guerrier, who has been doing the work of a three-person team that no longer exists, today set up a T1 line to the President's office, and has 150 network stations to hook up so Haiti can begin the painful journey back to a semi-functional government.

But his wife Dominque and their two babies (1 and 3) are staying with Guerrier's cousin, and he's worried sick about their safety. He wants the U.S. to send them to Deerfield Beach, Florida to stay with his sister.

In exchange for taking care of his family, Reynold will remain in this precarious position, keeping the Haitian backbond network operational and fighting off looters.

So far, most of the congressional and State Department inquiries have met a dead end (with the exception of Rep. Chellie Pingree, who's doing whatever she can to help). The repeated response: "They'll have to go through the normal visa process." Not even an option when your home is in ruins and you have no time to wait.

But unless the right official choices are made soon, Reynold will have to abandon the NAP to whatever happens next and try to get his family to a safer situation. Dehydration and diarrhea are now present in Haiti, which can result in high fatalities among children if untreated.

This is what Reynold Guerrier's young children face if he can't get them to safety. Seems like the least we could do for someone providing such an important service.

If Ed Rendell can bend the rules to bring a planeload of orphans back to Pittsburgh, surely someone, somewhere can allow this young family to go stay with relatives.

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