Friday, November 8, 2013

In the Dark - Day 4

We will put up a daily post about the status of the optical line break, even if there is nothing to say, in an effort to keep readers informed. Information on the outage is spread over several websites and Facebook, but there is no central clearinghouse for information. We'll do our best to summarize and give links to the latest information.  If you do have connectivity, even for only a few minutes, you can check here for the latest without having to search hither and yon.

If you have anything to add, please do. Here is the latest --
  • DEM (the County Department of Emergency Management) is reporting on their Facebook page that 911 service is restored on all islands. DEM also reports that Verizon is working on a temporary link to get their Friday Harbor tower working. They also add that Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint are all mobilizing to improve connectivity.
  • OPALCO also is reporting that 911 service is restored.
  • No new information on repairs. No information from CenturyLink. No other information from the County.
SAN JUAN ISLAND, Wash. -- Frustration was spreading on the San Juan Islands, where residents entered their third day of a major phone and data disruption. 
A main fiber optic line broke Tuesday morning and the problems go far beyond losing 911 services. 
Laura Flaum, owner of Spring Street Deli in Friday Harbor says the outage has severely impacted her business. She can't run any credit cards, so customers have to pay with cash. 
She went from making 50 to 60 sandwiches a day, to making three.
It's devastating to businesses when you can't do credit transactions," Flaum said.
CenturyLink still doesn't know how an underwater fiber optic line was broken or how long it will take to fix it. Technicians are still trying to find a solution.
Internet and data transmissions are spotty at best. Some banks are closed. ATMs are down.
Sheriff Rob Nou says when 911 service went down, emergency personnel had to scramble to alert the public. 
"Reaching out to the community, getting fliers out, getting sandwich boards out, knocking on doors," said Nou.
Century Link had to redirect 911 calls to other working numbers on most of the islands.  On Thursday, San Juan County Department of Emergency Management tweeted CenturyLink reported 911 and island-to-island calling was working on Orcas Island as of 4 p.m. Thursday, and 911 was working on San Juan, Orcas, Shaw and Lopez islands. 
At the Friday Harbor Pharmacy, they finally got their internet back on Thursday. But staff can only call and receive calls from doctors and clinics on the island. 
"We were unable to receive any transfers, or prescriptions from the mainland," said pharmacy technician Cheyenne Mauldin.
Residents say the situation has moved beyond frustrating. 
"I can only call on the island by phone," said Ann Jarrell. "My cell phone is non-functioning. I have no internet, no email."
"I can't tell the weather," said resident Barbara Wollman. "I can't make an airline reservation. There's so much I can't do."
The bookkeeper at a gas station says she had to install a satellite dish just to order fuel. Island residents are thick-skinned, but island fever is spreading quickly.
Although tourists can't call to confirm hotel reservations, county council member Rick Hughes hotels want you to come anyway.
"If you want a rustic getaway, when you can feel sealed off from the mainland, this is the weekend to do it."

29 comments:

  1. Bob Jarman, you batman searchlight is on.

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  2. In the County Building's parkinglot: One ATT truck with its antennae deployed. B+. Verizon truck is there but antennae are NOT deployed. C-

    Press release on County Building door from November 6. F.

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  3. See, this is what I mean by Rick missing the point. Sometimes, Rick, the San Juans are not open for business. When there is no banking, internet, or phone service, by any stretch of the imagination, the San Juans are not open for business. When credit cards can't be processed, the San Juans are not open for business. When the Friends and their fellow travelers try to shut down every home and business in the San Juans with extreme regulation, the San Juans are not open for business. Rick, you behaved this way when the Skagit bridge went out. The primary message you wanted to get out was that the San Juans were open for business. Floods in Eastsound -- we're open. If a nuclear bomb were to go off in Friday Harbor, Rick, you would probably say, "Come on down, you can have the whole place to yourself. Be sure to stop by Ray's pharmacy in Eastsound too. We're having a 2 for 1 sale on flood damaged merchandise."

    Sometimes, Rick, the San Juans are not open for business. I know you used to work for ESPN, but PR spin does not work in every crisis. Sometimes a problem really is a problem, and you have to be straight with people. Tell people what you know and don't know, and don't act like the Tourist Board every time the press wants to talk to you.

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  4. @10:40

    Thank you for the information!

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  5. The Island Guardian has a brief article up with new information.

    http://www.islandguardian.com//features/archives/00002142.html

    As the Guardian puts it, "If nothing else, the outage shows that our county is not ill equipped to deal with a major emergency, it is not equipped at all. The problem does not appear to be unsolvable, we only need leadership and commitment from both the private and public sector by those is a position to come up with the plans and policies that can be activated when the need arises."

    And I'd like to add the TH's thanks to @10:40 for the information, which corroborates the Island Guardian story.

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  6. It's being reported by the Island Guardian, and a few spot checks by us seem to confirm, that there is SOME phone service BETWEEN islands. In other words, Lopez, San Juan, and Orcas/Shaw can talk to one another SOMETIMES. It's spotty, but it's something.

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  7. Would someone in a position of power check with CenturyLink to see that they are telling all callers to our affected exchanges that THEIR LINES are out, and that we haven't died, moved, or closed down business????

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  8. The recorded message that I have received recently is that "all circuits are busy."

    I have had the same reaction from colleagues and customers -- "We though you moved!"

    This is serious business. When we can't be reached, they really do think we went out of business. They don't think it's just a colossal phone screw up.

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  9. I have only one question at the moment: Those fancy microwave dish antennas on top of the Century Tel office in Friday Harbor, the ones that are pointed east:

    What are those used for?

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  10. Thanks for the info, TH. the lack of info from Century Link, Verizon, the County and (to a bit lesser extent, Opalco) is nuts. Thanks, again for your updates.

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  11. Where IS Bob Jarman? If anyone should have the inside down low on CenturyNoLink, it would be him.

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  12. Perhaps they feel we don't "need to know" or terrorists making a preemptive strike on the Friday Harbor offices of Homeland Security.

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  13. This is DEM's latest information and advice to citizens on their Facebook page.

    "We've been getting information that calls from the mainland to some businesses are getting a recording to the effect that the number has been disconnected or is no longer in service...looking into that...but in the meantime if you have internet access is it possible to reach out to your customer base by email explaining the situation?"

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  14. Sure it's possible. We can reach out to our customers and tell them that we live in a backward Luddite community with no cell phone service, no redundancy, and we have no idea whatsoever when service will be restored. I already notified my customers and colleagues about the disruption, and the response I got from one is typical - "Why don't you move to civilization?"

    I did plenty of fast talking to arrange my business and life so I could live here. I convinced everyone that with the latest technology, I could stay in touch and be just as, if not more, productive.

    This outage does not help my credibility.

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  15. Sharon Kivisto, Editor, San Juan IslanderNovember 8, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    San Juan Islander has had continuous coverage of the latest information and help available since Tuesday morning. The Seattle Times used the coverage for its article. You can view all of the articles at http://www.sanjuanislander.com/island-newshome/more/2013-04-06-17-22-17

    I've also posted an article from 2004 when CT laid fiber optic cable.

    The goal of the project: "Complete network of fiber optic cable in the San Juan Islands, which will eventually provide continuous, uninterrupted service to island customers in the event this portion of the system is accidentally damaged. This installation builds duplicity and additional capacity into the current system."

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  16. Sharon, I found the article from 2004 to be helpful (5 years of planning to lay the cable ... I hope we don't have to wait that long for a replacement). I think readers should check out the sanjuanislander and the San Juan Update, if they have the time.

    However, I still found the coverage wanting because there is no good information on how long this will last, and I believe the comments on TH allow people to share information better.

    I also hope the goal of the CenturyLink optical cable project was not to build "duplicity" since "duplicity" is defined as "dishonest behavior that is meant to trick someone." You might want to check the editing on that article to see if it says what you (or CenturyLink) intended it to say.

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  17. TH/ECK - she can't help herself. Freudian slip.

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  18. The County Council declared a state of emergency.

    http://www.sanjuanislander.com/island-newshome/more/2013-04-06-17-22-17/7703-county-council-declares-state-of-emergency

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  19. That's a quote from CT. I never noticed that before. Kind of funny.

    There's been a lot of information on Facebook. Tom Doenges and Mike Green are providing their insights. Comments on TH will also help spread information.

    According to the information provided last evening. OPALCO and CL are going to work on a temporary fix to the internet problem since the permanent fix for CenturyLink could easily take a few weeks.

    As of yesterday they hadn't been able to inspect the break due to water conditions.

    I think not knowing when this will end is a big part of making this situation worse than it already is.

    This emergency is definitely spotlighting how screwed we would all be in a bigger emergency and the complete lack of an emergency communication plan by the county - something I've brought up to absolutely no avail several times to the council in the past few years.

    Let's hope this crisis leads to actual emergency planning - rather than the exclusive club table-top exercises which take place now.

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  20. I completely agree with you.

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  21. 2:24 "This installation builds duplicity and additional capacity into the current system." is quoted directly from the printed information CenturyTel provided to me about the project.

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  22. @Sharon

    I know you were responding to 2:24, but I wanted to respond to you to thank you for clarifying the quote (since I brought it up). They need a better editor for their press releases IMHO.

    Thank you also for posting the information about the State of Emergency declaration. That's helpful

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  23. That's not the only problem CenturyLink has with its press releases.

    Not one word of apology.

    I assume that we will all get the month of November FREE from CenturyLink charges, right? At least?

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  24. SENATOR RANKER:

    THIS is occurring.

    "We've been getting information that calls from the mainland to some businesses are getting a recording to the effect that the number has been disconnected or is no longer in service..."


    PLEASE DO SOMETHING. TELL CENTURY LINK TO FIX ITS MESSAGES. OUR BUSINESSES ARE BEING HURT EVERY HOUR THIS GOES ON.

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  25. Sharon thank you for the information and referencing your 2004 article about the laying of the new cable.
    It was interesting to note that a two inch conduit was installed rather than the needed four inch conduit. No problem.Just remove the outer layer of protective armoring, probably the heaviest, and the new damaged cable fits right in the undersized conduit.

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  26. @2:08 pm said: "I did plenty of fast talking to arrange my business and life so I could live here. I convinced everyone that with the latest technology, I could stay in touch and be just as, if not more, productive.

    This outage does not help my credibility."

    That's OK because the Friends of the San Juans and their fellow travelers think you're an abomination. [The good news is that you're, in my view, in excellent company.] Telecommuting? They're against it because, well, it means that you're still working for a living. In the Utopian theme park that the Friends are trying to create, the hoi polloi simply won't be allowed. People who work for a living? Quelle horreur!!!

    Next thing you know you'll be inviting friends to visit and have them stay at the Islander, adding dust and garbage that retired UNIVERSITY professors (pinky finger in the air as you sip your tea) will have to hold their noses to avoid as they drive by. This idea of telecommuting must stop - you can see where it leads.

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  27. Here is the latest:

    There is currently a barge on site with divers and robotics working to assess the extent of the damage to the submarine fiber-optic cable. An update is expected around 5:30 p.m. At that time CenturyLink will know what direction the restoration will go in.

    CenturyLink is connecting up to OPALCO's resources and will be providing the equivalent of 81 T1 (DS1) lines to enable long-distance and internet service. That equals one-third of the peak capacity. The 81 lines is maxing out OPALCO's resources.

    Priority will be given to financial, banking, Coast Guard and other high priority services.

    This reduced capacity means callers may hear a fast busy signal when calling which indicates the equipment is maxed out, said County Council member Bob Jarman. Callers will need to just try again to make their call.

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  28. ECK said: "I also hope the goal of the CenturyLink optical cable project was not to build 'duplicity' since 'duplicity' is defined as 'dishonest behavior that is meant to trick someone.' You might want to check the editing on that article to see if it says what you (or CenturyLink) intended it to say."

    It's Century Link, I'm pretty sure they meant what they said.

    But the Luddites and Flat Earthers want OPALCO to outsource faster internet connections to Century Link. Supposedly. I'm sure what they really want is for there to be no interwebs on the islands at all. For the sake of the bees (insert here the obligatory 127 links to pseudo scientific studies that are mostly behind paywalls that the person posting the links has never bothered to read to determine that they links actually don't show anything like what she thinks they supposedly say), don't you know. And the children (insert here the obligatory 84 links to pseudo scientific studies that are mostly behind paywalls that the person posting the links has never bothered to read to determine that the links actually don't show anything like what she thinks they supposedly say).

    Anyway, thanks to Century Link's duplicitously not having build any redundancy into our system, we're part way to the dream the FOSJ, Luddites and Flat Earthers get positively moist thinking about. If only the electricity would go out at sunset as it would if we were getting 100% of our electricity from PV solar panels, their dream would be achieved - the few remaining residents sitting alone, in the dark, with no internets to amuse themselves.

    Stock up on board games!!! And candles!!!

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  29. @Sharon

    Great info and thanks for sharing.

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