By Ryan Velez
Puerto Rico is in the midst of a full-blown crisis, not just due to the damage caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma, and not just by the sluggish response. What help the island is getting, be it from non-profits or individuals stepping up to do their part, still has to be dispersed across an island with no power and a damaged infrastructure. When these hurdles are in one’s way, communication becomes key, and BlackNews shares how one Black-owned company is taking this approach to supporting the island.
Freddie Figgers, owner of one of the nation’s largest African-American owned cell phone companies and networks, has sent 500 satellite phones with unlimited calls, texts and data to families affected by the hurricane.
“The hurricane destroyed the entire island’s telecommunications’ network,” said Figgers, 28, founder of Figgers Communication that has designed his own phones and developed his own network. “We’re trying to do all we can to help these families communicate with each other, and especially their loved ones.” The phones will be distributed to individual families as well as at San Juan Airport.
Figgers, who grew up to adopted parents in Quincy, FL, has quite an interesting story of his own, beginning when he took apart an old IBM computer his father found at a local Goodwill store. At 13, he started working for the city of Quincy as a computer technician and network administrator in its NetQuincy department. By 16, he set out on his own, starting Figgers Computers, installing wireless networks and repairing computers. Not to rest on his laurels, he started a cloud-based hosting network that stored data for more than 70 clients – law firms, car dealerships and dozens of other companies, all by the age of 17.
At 18, Figgers designed a VOIP – Voice over Internet Protocol network – that transmits voice to and from the USA from more than 80 countries’ landline and mobile connections. In 2011, the company’s first cellular tower was constructed.
Figgers Communications stands out from many of its competitors in that it is one of the few telecom companies in the country that manufactures its own phone and provides its own service. Four years ago, it released the “F1” phone, that has automatic anti-texting functionality and fast charging. The second release, the F2, promises to be both shatterproof and waterproof.