Saturday, November 9, 2013

In The Dark - Day 5

Things are far from normal, but here we are at the end of Day 5, and partial service has been restored ... thanks largely to OPALCO.  OPALCO issued a press release, which says in part:
OPALCO’s data communications system is now carrying the phone and data traffic for San Juan Island, and providing 911 and phone solutions for the rest of San Juan County until CenturyLink can repair or replace their failed submarine cable.
The has re-posted articles from a decade ago regarding OPALCO's decision to install fiber optic cable in excess of their immediate needs. Interesting reading.

The Island Guardian is reporting that a barge with divers was scheduled to begin replacing the damaged CenturyLink cable today. No word on when that might be completed.

There has been no further press release from CenturyLink that we know of. The County DEM is announcing on Facebook:
Orcas Islanders - Sprint is sending their Emergency Response "COLT" to the Orcas Library Sunday morning. This is a communications vehicle which provides wifi coverage and they'll have 100 phones for people to make calls. It should be there about 10 AM. 
Just off the phone with Verizon, their towers in Friday Harbor and Roche are now operational. Voice, data, and 911 are all working for Verizon wireless.
AT&T has three mobile sites up in town on three main islands, and some of their regular network may be coming online during day today.
We still don't know what caused the failure, but there have been a couple of interesting (if implausible) rumors. One rumor says that an earthquake, centered on San Juan Island, struck at the same time as the cable failure. We have checked with the USGS, and about 6 hours before the cable failure there was a very small magnitude 2.3 earthquake with a focus 12 km deep and an epicenter 8 km northwest of Friday Harbor (see USGS screen shot below). It seems very unlikely that this would have contributed to the failure.

Another rumor says that the optical cable was already near the end of its projected operational life, and it just wore out, aggravated perhaps by a seafloor ridge acting like a knife to gradually cut through the cable as it swayed back and forth in the bottom currents. We are not experts in optical communications, but this also seems implausible.

But something happened ... we just don't yet know what.

Commenters have been providing some great information and viewpoints. Thanks to all of you for sharing what you know, and keep the comments (and even the rumors) coming.

Click to enlarge - Earthquake on November 4, 2013


  1. The San Juan Update is reporting this additional information:

    In a Saturday morning conference call, Centurylink reported that its repair crews had a “temporary fix” in place providing about 20 percent of the telephone capacity the system had before an undersea cable broke early Tuesday morning.

    Thanks to equipment made available by electric utility cooperative,OPALCO, approximately 60% of the pre-break bandwidth available for DSL Internet on San Juan Island has also been restored. (County-wide, Internet service outages have varied by island and provider.)

    CenturyLink representatives said that additional temporary voice connections will be brought up in phases over the next two to three days increasing telephone and data carrying capacity to roughly two-thirds of normal.

    They also said that barges and crews are staging to bring up the damaged cable up from nearly 300 feet below the surface of the Salish Sea so that it can be repaired. At this point, company representatives said, divers have not found the exact point of the break, but they have narrowed down the section where they believe the cable is kinked or broken. A full repair will take at least “a few days.”

    CenturyLink has not ruled out the “worst case scenario” which would require a total replacement, rather than merely splicing in a new section of cable. The company said it is shopping for a 14,000 foot long undersea cable in case it is needed, but that it has not yet located one and it might have to be fabricated.

    Nevertheless, by early next week, the company expects San Juan County residents and businesses to be able to conduct business as usual, though they may occasionally hear a “fast busy signal,” indicating that all circuits are busy, when dialing off-island at peak times.

  2. How much money, time, and faith in our technology system has this fiasco cost our little San Juan economy? We're getting negative news coverage at this point from Seattle media...not good for tourism or the real estate market. Some may think this is great, but our economy thrives on guests from out of the area.

    A few months back, OPALCO members were asked if they'd like OPALCO to provide broadband service. "Oh, no! It might raise our rates a few dollars the year!" said the members.

    Time to ask again. But this time, let's leave CenturyLink out of it and find another ISP.

  3. This is an interesting idea.

    Do islanders really want to place their fate in the hands of a corporation in Louisiana who does not exactly have our best local interests as a priority compared to enhancing shareholder value?

    Would you want our electricity handled by CenturyLink? Think about it.

    A near term goal ought to be to phase out CenturyLink as an ISP and phase in OPALCO since we know now it is not technically difficult to simply "patch-in" OPALCO's bandwidth into CenturyLink's distribution system to the home - ie copper/DSL.

    That alone will go far in ensuring locally owned and controlled redundant communications capacity is available to island residents, government, emergency services 24/7.

    This is not something CenturyLink is geared up to provide. Not their business model. OPALCO can provide now. It is their business model.

    This is not an either/or situation, it is a hybrid interconnection of existing systems that will solve the problem.

  4. Can we get a grass roots movement started to reopen the issue with OPALCO? Email campaign, petition, whatever. Seems to me that people are going to have a much different perspective now than they did last spring. By the way, Internet service has been spotty this a.m. (Sunday) at the south end of SJI. As more folks get word of the fix, peak capacity will be taxed.

  5. @ 9:27 AM

    I can confirm more or less, am a bit south of FH, net went up and down this morning, any other time would have looked to household router on the fritz, but not today. Almost a regular pattern. Headed into town but saw it like that between 7AM - 9ish ... last night was fine.

  6. as of phone service at business in town. our business counts on 80% phone for ordering product. Called CenturyLink they deny any outage in San Juan County. Interesting.

  7. TO: Anonymous on November 10, 2013 at 12:53 PM:

    Call CenturyLink and have them open a WORK TICKET on your number. REPORT YOUR PROBLEM and get a tcket number. If everyone did this, our business phones would get some attention!

  8. "Well sir/ma'am if you were able to call us on the phone there is certainly no problem with your connection. Was there anything else I can help you with today?"

  9. thanks for your input My home phone works which is out of town, my business phone doesn't work which is in town. When I called CenturyLink this PM they are closed until Monday....Hopefully not closed for the holiday.

  10. Folks, the real issue is no one wants to spend big capital to obtain the "business" of a very few people living on a bunch of hard to service islands.

    Yes, it is bad news the outside World got a eye opener on living here. Don't you hate declining real estate value? As one of the many fools who bought at the top,I understand that grief.

    But let me say this: All you other folks who want isolation, who want to live off the grid, who want to live without human contact, who think FOSJ is the temple for you to put those knees on the mat, well we still got lots of places for you.

    Henry, Stuart, Waldron, Spieden, Blakely, (OK, not you Blakely) Decatur, Obstruction...any competent real estate person can park you out there away from all the rest of us.

    So GO! But, please take FOSJ with you and leave the rest of us with our "connectivity" in peace.

  11. Just CenturyLink reimbursing OUR co-op, OPALCO, for all the assistance we're providing? Hope's just the right thing to do. At least CenturyLink could give some VERY PUBLIC thanks to OPALCO and its hard-working techs for everything they've done. And, while CenturyLink is at it, thank the co-op members for loaning out their "electrical crew" in CenturyLink's time of "technical" need! :-)