Monday, November 11, 2013

In The Dark - Day 8 (Almost)

This morning, the County issued a press release saying that no cable fault had been found yet, but various percentages of service were continuing to be restored.

About two hours ago, the Facebook page of the announced that CenturyLink had found the location of the severed cable, suspended along a rock face south of where it was originally placed. The article speculated that the cable might have moved because of an earthquake that occurred a few minutes before the service disruption.

Upon reading this, the Trojan Heron once again checked the USGS website for all recent earthquakes in Washington. You can check for yourself at this link. The only earthquake in the vicinity was a 2.3 magnitude earthquake occurring at 9:40 PM on Monday, November 4th ... which was several hours before the disruption. The earthquake story still doesn't make sense to us.

The Facebook article also has a lot of self-congratulatory language by CenturyLink about CenturyLink.
"Typically a response effort of this magnitude takes over a month to develop; the fact that we were able to mobilize within the first 36 hours is amazing. Restoring service is a top priority for CenturyLink, and we have pulled resources in from across the country to get these facilities up and running," said Tim Grigar, vice president and general manager of CenturyLink’s western Washington market.
If we take them at their word, CenturyLink began mobilizing a massive effort almost immediately because they knew this was a catastrophic event with a long response timeframe ... and yet, we heard practically nothing. We heard bupkis for days.

Also, there is a letter printed by the that expresses the sentiments of some TH commenters, so we think it bears an airing here as well.
I just read a quote from Brendan Cowan, Director of the County Department of Emergency Management, in the Seattle Times. He states about the communications outage: "It's not like Armageddon. We're just disconnected - which for some people could be a great thing." 
Great sense of humor for someone whose paycheck isn't affected by the outage. 
But what about those people whose paycheck is affected. Like the employees of Wells Fargo Bank which closed. Or the people who couldn't get prescriptions filled. Or those who live here, telecommute and couldn't work. Or those of us who work off island and couldn't check on our families. 
Maybe we need someone in that job who understands the seriousness of what happened and is working hard to make sure it is fixed quickly and never happens again. And doesn't have an ambition to be a comedian. 
Alan M. Davis San Juan Island
Councilman Hughes made similar statements last Friday to KING 5DEM issued an apology of sorts on their Facebook page today.


  1. Maybe Senator Rancor will bestow upon CenturyLink, a Stewardship Award.

    We who did too little too late from our ignorance and neglect now congratulate ourselves for saving the planet, the wolves, the bridges, the whales and the broadbandish stuff too.

  2. The question going forward, is, who is going to do what to improve the situation. Will Centurylink retain the extra microwave link as a backup?
    OPALCO tried very hard to bring multiple plans to the people. The response was apathy and downright hostility from segments who didn't want to pay for anything which would benefit the whole community. And the Luddite groups obsessed with "rays" from cellular radios. Getting anything done in this county that requires a majority consensus is next to impossible.

  3. What I do not understand is that on the Islander they have a picture of the break with someone's hand pointing out the break. Have we already pulled the cable to the surface???

    Also, I think that Brendan's comments are totally inappropriate and he should apologize or leave.

  4. Hopefully the current situation, and Opalco's excellent response, will make for a renewed and more broadly supported push for Opalco provided internet and voip phone services. Maybe so and maybe not, but the alternative seems to be just a return to Century Link's normal lousey service, with no plan to upgrade its system. Who in their right mind finds that attractive? In the meantime, do we all get a credit on our next Century Link bills for the period of time during which it has provided no service? hmmmmm.

  5. It is incomprehensible to me that Century didn't already have a backup link in place. That is a fundamental requirement of any critical system: The pieces which can't be quickly replaced (e.g. undersea cables) need redundancy. This is kindergarten-level engineering.

    But of course redundancy costs money, which would reduce Century's profit. Remember that Century didn't build this system: they bought it (and many other rural phone systems) after someone else built it, in order to enhance their corporate value to their shareholders. Obviously they make more money from inflated, regulated rural rates than they spend providing service. For them, it is a simple formula: maximize income, minimize expense. Everything else is just theater.

  6. CenturyLink = Theater

    OPALCO = Reality

    So far, the local public prefers to pay for theater, not reality. Until their ox is Gored.

    This is a teachable moment. As Rahm Emanuel famously pointed out: "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."

    I can't wait for the Ocean Hero to decide he's also the Broadband Savior. I'm counting the days.

  7. We are, for what its worth, currently observing a large crane barge apparently trying to fish up at least one end of the severed cable just off our beach in Griffin Bay on the west side of Cape San Juan. Seems an awful long ways from the original location of the cable, so small wonder it took so long to find it.

  8. I think Mr. Brendan is already "gone." It's his job to review and plan for emergencies. How can he not know that CenturyTel had no backup? Especially since we all knew that their service sucked and that they had no interest in upgrading it?

  9. The barge is down south in Griffin Bay because of the high words from the south in the am hours (wind 140 at 18knots gusting to 27knots).
    When the wind does down, they will reposition to the actual break location and resume work.

  10. Can the Trojan Heron pull a public records request, and get copies of all of our county's disaster/contingency plans? There must be binders full of the stuff.

    Maybe we could get Stan Matthews to put them up on the county web site or something.

  11. I think that the best way to get our plans up on the website is to ask council.

  12. The whole idea that we would have to file a public information request for emergency plans is nuts! The public should know what the plans are because--duh--we are supposed to follow them. Like what if the Big One happens and we get a big tsunami through Eastsound. Is there a plan? Are there evacuation routes and sheltering routes? Are these maps and plans published and posted in places where Eastsound people can see it?

  13. The whole idea that we would have to file a public information request for emergency plans is nuts! The public should know what the plans are because--duh--we are supposed to follow them. Like what if the Big One happens and we get a big tsunami through Eastsound. Is there a plan? Are there evacuation routes and sheltering routes? Are these maps and plans published and posted in places where Eastsound people can see it?

  14. The whole idea that we would have to file a public information request for emergency plans is nuts! The public should know what the plans are because--duh--we are supposed to follow them. Like what if the Big One happens and we get a big tsunami through Eastsound. Is there a plan? Are there evacuation routes and sheltering routes? Are these maps and plans published and posted in places where Eastsound people can see it?

  15. I was watching Council this morning and Stan Matthews and the sheriff reported in that Orcas 911 is out again and that SJI internet is back down to 30%. Watch for updated posts on County.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. As to credits on our Century Tel bills-- last week when I called the service number, after being told there was no outage in my area, I was told to contact Customer care (an oxymoron in this case) wherever that is, and let them know exactly how many days I was out of service, and they could give me a credit. Right.

    As to the the SJI. Dept of Emergency Mgt, I called them last week, too, and no one answered the phone. No recording, no voice mail, nada, just endless ringing. How many taxpayer dollars are spent on that idiocy?

  18. Apparently phones/911 are up again on Orcas, service was out for about an hour.

  19. What an idiotic comment by Brendan Cowan. The man gets paid handsomely for doing nothing. He should at least have the good sense to keep his mouth shut so that people don't realize that his salary is more government waste that should be done away with.

  20. Indeed of course he isnt the poor guy that lost his life waiting for emergency personel

  21. On the first day of the outage I called centurylink as well, I flipped out when they told me my bill hadn’t been paid! which was pure hogwash! And considering the breadth of the outage Council should negotiate on our behalf for credits

  22. You want the council to haggle on your phone bill?
    Unreal. Well, while your at it, see if they will come take my leaves. Oh yeah, grab me a sandwich on the way over.

  23. And meanwhile government employees march on to more tax income and their resulting benefit package.

    Most of us, or at least a lot of us, pay for yearly septic system inspection, a $300 hit.

    AND on top of that is a health dept hit of 30 smacks for stuffing the report in some file drawer. And on top of that is sales tax of another $24+ smacks bringing most totals to something in the neighborhood of $350 green.

    AND, now these bitches and bastards want more? For doing nothing!

    This crap has got to stop. Who runs this County? The tax paying electorate OR the employees?

  24. I'm sorry, but our government leaders SHOULD do something to ensure that we all get a refund from Century Link for the month of November. That barely covers the annoyance factor for the regular people--nothing will cover the business losses.

    Rep. Larson is reportedly a telecom expert; Sen. Rank is on the telecommunications committee--who better to weigh in on our behalf??

  25. As for the Council--we don't need them to rake our leaves (do we need a permit to do that?) or get us sandwiches, we need them to get our emergency response "team" in order. Make sure that our monopoly telephone company is providing a basic level of service (it isn't, even when the cable isn't broken).

    Thank heavens we have smart people filling in the gaps. OPALCO. Fire and EMTs. Regular people.

  26. Might be worth digging up what the County's franchise agreements with CenturyLink have to say.

    It's possible that we may not have much say over quality of service, depending on how smart we were when we gave them access to the right-of-ways.

  27. I thought Rank sat on the Ocean Hero Subcommittee doling out Puget Sound Patronage. Who knows?

    Jeff Morris is probably on House Telecom/Commerce committees and long involved in those issues and he knows all the players.

    We should have him come talk to the Council. Seriously. He's an OK guy and could help. This is really not Kevin's skill set at all. I Unfortunately I hear Jeff is not planning to run again, but to rumors have it the regional Dem machine is going someone ... like ... Lisa ... Byers ... sayitaintso ...

    Oh, we really need to get Morris over here to talk Council and make the rounds on this.

  28. I heard Ranker is positioning for Morris' seat.

    Worse move!

    Centurytel has made an industry of gobbling up little phone systems, then bending the users over a barrel and screwing them. This fight is most Definitly a battle at the Federal level. The council can weigh in, but they really have no pull, EXCEPT, that they have every right to file suit against century tel to recoup losses sustained from the outage, and this is exactly why the phantom "it was the earthquake" argument has come up.

    If Centuryfail can blame this entire fiasco on an earthquake, they can hide behind an "act of god", and avoid paying out damages to SJC and all of us subscribers. Look for their legal team to start churning out the press releases about this earthquake.

    In the interim, is there a lawyer in the county setting up to file a class-action against Century Link? If so, please post it here. I'm willing to sign on!

  29. According to san juan islander article from 2004 CenturyTel knowingly did a faulty installation. Two inch conduit instead of four inch, cutting the outer layer of armoring off the cable so it will fit in.
    If Century Tel of Inter Island, Inc. DBA CenturyLink doesn't know the history of a system and its weak links and fails to maintain their infrastructure. How can they bill us EVERY month for services not provided and maintenance not done, this is about more than just this month.
    Every month we pay a WA. State tax and a San Juan County surcharge for 911. Every month we pay a Universal Service Fund Surcharge. What do we pay that for? one would think it was for year around extra costs to
    make sure we have service.
    Centurylink/tel. Monroe ,LA. or Carolstream, IL. or wherever their corporate hidey hole is cant claim we have to kick in, because month after month, year after year we have paid. And they have taken the maintenance money and stuck it in their pocket and called it profit.
    Senator Ranker doesn't give a shit he has his state issued cell phone and laptop we pay for, I will bet the lobbyists make sure he has top notch service!

  30. A small change of subject.

    Are people aware of the public hearing today about a

    "On-site Sewage Operation and Maintenance Program Charge"

    for people w/private septics? To pay the costs of...

    "...the cost of the administration and operation of the on-site sewage program management plan."

    I just saw it on the Guardian and the public hearing is today at 11:30. I can't go then and the county website w/the details won't work on my computer.

    Does anyone know what the proposed fees are? And why this is being suggested?

  31. This is to enable Senator Ranker and personal entourage to make surprise, random onsite inspections of your sewer system, bathroom and peer down you toilet to see what you are flushing. He'll leave you with a big bill and a buffer.

    All Hail the Broadband Blowhard

  32. Rather good "lessons learned" editorial in the San Juan Islander. For once, I agree with the editor.

  33. 5:13 It will be interesting to hear the justification for yet another private user septic system "management plan."

    We have a mandatory yearly inspection now and we all pay a large fee to file the resulting report, even if you do your own inspections.

    Is this really about something NEEDED or just another whine for more money?

    Does this place ever say NO!

  34. I hope the editor of the San Juan Islander has learned some lessons about the value of real journalism during this event. It is notable that the Trojan Heron became a source of real "ground truth" news throughout. There is a lesson there as well.

    In any event, the recommendation of that editorial seems to be that we now need a communications plan. Yet another plan. That sounds nice and raises interesting things to ponder:

    1) In this age of well funded non-stop planning for the bogeyman of the day, sea level rise, climate change, stormwater runoff, critical areas, transportation, Brickworks farmers markets, guardrails, historic barns, barn owls, eel grass, constructed wetlands, deconstructed wetlands, habitat corridors, salmon and so on, how the hell did we forget this other stuff?

    2) The Vision Statement of our Comprehensive Plan combines Transportation and Communication together into a unified concept, which is logical in the rural context. Roads and phones. Well, we got the Transportation plan but no Communication Plan. Which is odd. Do we need a communications plan or is this just a band-aid?. The 1993 Vision Statement of the Comprehensive Plan defines our true rural character, including our commitment to develop advanced communications infrastructure. Why re-invent the wheel?

    3) What we really need is a Rural Element to our Comprehensive Plan that CODIFIES the true Vision Statement and sets forth correct County policy to do that. The problem is that we allowed ourselves to be hijacked by the Friends of the San Juans. They decided to define their own "rural character" in 2004 and proceeded to ram it down our throats. We are still being played.

    4) A Rural Element will once and for all bolt down into county policy the Preamble of our Comprehensive Plan, which is curled up on the floor gasping for air and spitting blood after being stomped on by the Friends for the past twenty years.

    5) This one major change to the Comp Plan will go farther to deconstruct the Machine, send the Friends packing and heal our communities of the systematic abuse of decades of corruption than any other action we can take. It will also go far to focus priorities on communications strategy and planning.

  35. Amen, 11:29, and well said.

  36. @ 11:29
    Run for office

  37. 11:29. Too bad some did not vote for the ability to have more seats on the County Council, surely we would all be helped by having you sit in one of them.

    Frankly it is starting to get ridiculous how subservient Bob and Rick are to Jamie.

    If it is routine for a district to nominate a PC member and Bob has made his choice known, then it is a a small matter to move the appointment forward.

    If Bob can't even get this done, and he certainly has done zilch on anything so far, we need to get his wife to take over his seat.

  38. Ricks wife would do a pretty good job as well.

  39. On the new "tax" on private septic systems, we again must look to the now famous quote of Alexandra Gavora:

    "Why is it that San Juan County sees the solution to any problem as a new tax?"

  40. For the same reason bank robber Willy Sutton robbed banks: "That's where the money is."

  41. So now we think we need a communications plan for emergencies? What on earth have the emergency staff been doing for the past several years? I assumed that we had this stuff done already. Can we have a study of what emergency plans we have already? And how much we've spent?

  42. The happiest people in the islands right now are: Port Commissioners Mike Ahrenius, Greg Hertel, & Babara Marrett. Now that everyone is hoppin' mad at CenturyLink, the pressure is off to demolish that eyesore of burned rubbish on the waterfront and move forward quickly on the new Port building and .

    Oh, and don't forget happy Gordy Peterson! Gordy gets a breather from the wrath of public opinion about his new renters.

    All together now, let's sit in our Ivory Towers, say "Squirrel!," , and wait for the NEXT crisis, then we can play the blame and shame game with someone NEW!

  43. Or, this is just giving everyone a little downtime to sharpen their swords ...

    Get ready for Round Deux. The Committee for Stability and Order may have one a little battle but war is just getting started.

    So, anyway, Gordy Peterson and Ron Zee walk in to a bar, see? Ouch! That hurt!

  44. Our Orcas landlines are crackly and cut out in the middle of calls, and our Verizon cell is showing "no service."

    Anyone else having problems this morning?

  45. Still getting a lot of "This number is disconnected" messages on SJI & cell phones. CenturyLink, please fix at least the message part to say "This number is temporarily technologically challenged." Thanks! - for anything you can do for out island businesses!

  46. This just in!!!! The Port will clean up the burned out building by Christmas.

    AAAAHHH Which Christmas???

    And we just re-elected one of these people. Thank you Mike Ahrenius for your prompt attention to this matter.

  47. Updates are here now:

    I'd love to know when the CenturyLink Reps will be in Friday Harbor. If anyone knows, please share info.

  48. I think CenturyLink reps are at the Senior Center on Orcas this afternoon. Curious whether we all have to call (!) CenturyLink to get a refund.

  49. Down time with Century Link is routine. Happens at such a frequency rate that most of us ignore it rather than sit on the phone bitching at them.

    Now a swarthy, robust, energetic, Ocean Hero, narcissistic like our Senator Ranaway could propose a bill that consumers of connectivity would NOT be charged for down time.

    Simply a credit would show on your bill for downtime, Statewide for areas where it occurred.

    The chance of this happening...well you know the answer to that. Our lounge act Senator actually doing something, ANYTHING?

    Question: What does it take to get anyone pissed off around here?

    Is the County Council stoned all the time?

  50. I will give you 9 bucks to stop whining. The phones went out. Century tel sucks. Deal with it. Not sure how constant whining on the TH helps.

  51. 7:54 -
    Agreed. I will add an additional 9 bucks. I always thought self reliance was an important character trait of my neighbors, not whining over silliness.

    Yes I am pissed off. I am pissed that the very people that I thought valued the idea that we don't need or want government involved with our lives are complaining that government should be more involved in protecting us from a fucking internet and phone outage. This is not an emergency. This is internet & phones working intermittently. Get the fuck over it or move to the fucking city where your delicate needs can be more effectively met. (sorry, but it IS nearly Friday)


    PS. Yes, 911 IS important. That should work reliably. The rest of this crap is just that. Crap.

    PPS. Wait until the power cable has a similar problem. This will happen sooner or later. You might want to think about this in the context of your decision to live here.

  52. CenturyLink reps were in Friday Harbor from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 at Friday Harbor House meeting room.

  53. @ 7:54 PM I'll give you one buck to keep the Ocean Hero out this, he knows not what he does.

    The Trojan Heron seems to be the only source for reports on the ground, if that sounds like whining to you I wonder who pays your salary?

    Guardian has a very good report of the CenturyLink meeting here:

    TH field reports described a pattern of intermittent outages from several days ago, now confirmed by CenturyLink as the barge tower actually interfered with OPALCO's microwave signal. Interesting stuff.

  54. A local Facebook group formed over the past few weeks in response to the news that the Department of Homeland Security was moving into the downtown core of Friday Harbor.

    There are nearly 700 people monitoring this group now, including members of County Council. The group is open, anyone can join. A lot of research is taking place, and specific actions that will move to implementation.

    The Rural Resistance is mobilizing but it will not be televised.

  55. I thought 5:52 was pretty reasonable.

  56. So, no more whining on TH? I'd admit done of that stuff has done much good.

    OK, strictly data entry, Don't know or have data, then shut the F up?

    OK, but kinda boring.

  57. Thank you @6:48 This is from the NO DHS in FH facebook page:

    Citizens concerned about the relocation of Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) offices into Friday Harbor's downtown retail core.
    As concerned citizens of and visitors to San Juan Island and Friday Harbor, we believe that placing Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) offices in the downtown core would be a serious mistake.
    We welcome the presence of CBP agents in Friday Harbor, and recognize the work that they do to keep our country and island safe. That said, the corner of First and Spring St., the heart of Friday Harbor's downtown, is an inappropriate location for a government security facility.
    We are disappointed by the lack of transparency and public input into a decision which will affect the way our tax dollars are spent and alter the face of this small community through the coming decade.
    We want this move halted until a satisfactory impact study is provided and the public is engaged in the decision making process.
    This page is a space for airing concerns, brainstorming solutions, and expressing solidarity in this cause. It would be ideal to get a wide variety of perspectives on the topic.

    It's understood that many people are worried about the increasing scope and function of governmental security agencies such as The National Security Agency (NSA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).
    This is not the place to disparage Customs and Border Patrol or to level personal attacks toward any individuals.

    Friday Harbor is a special place as an island port of entry at the edge of the United States. We want to cultivate a harmonious relationship with the governmental agencies which are obligated to operate in this community. We want to maximize the efficiency with which they perform their duties while maintaining the magic of this post glacial gem at the edge of the world.

    Constructive brainstorming on possible solutions and a wide variety of perspectives is encouraged. Speculation, paranoia, hearsay, conspiracy, "slippery slope" arguments, and worst possible outcomes are not the focus of this page.

  58. "The phones went out. Century tel sucks. Deal with it." Wow, if that's how the Founding Fathers addressed their issues, it would be a different world here.

    BTW, I thought we were dealing with it. Asking questions about what plans exist and what systems failed. This may come as a surprise but there are a few businesses and individuals whose lives and/or livelihoods depend on telephone service. Sorry they're disturbing you while interested in keeping this from happening again.


  59. Thursday, November 21, 2013

    County Council Hearing Room, Legislative Building, 55 Second Street,
    Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

    8 a.m.

    Continued public hearing
    from on an appeal by
    Friends of the San Juans
    of a shoreline exemption allowing (non-friend) homeowners to build a bulkhead to protect their property.

    Your grant dollars at work. Thank you, Friends, for always knowing better than us and making sure you get your way.

  60. FWIW for those THers in FH, Zito Media, our local cable co, offers high speed internet and now digital phone service. You can switch and keep your old phone #. I just did and can't wait to tell Century link to stuff it. I'll post an update on the service. Scheduled for install about a week out.
    They now offer 10, 20 and 50 Mbps Internet speeds.
    This should be an easy switch for anyone in town atleast.

  61. Mount Baker Cable also offers internet service.

    There are also several providers of satellite-based internet service.

    There are several vendors of satellite phone service, that use quite different technologies.

    If you positively must have reliable communications 24x7, it would be prudent to have some personal redundancy in place, rather than rely on a single carrier.

    Demanding our county council arrange for your telecommunications needs to be reliably met is a losing move.

  62. 1:27 My My, you mean asking our County Council to be active in public affairs is a waste of time? Well obviously!

  63. @1:27 Telecommunications are offered by multiple providers. Is it your view that our county council should be intervening in our ability to contract and do business with the telecommunications vendors of our choice?

    The county council doesn't provide us food. Or housing. Or clothing. They don't tell us what religion to practice, or who to associate with. Why do you want them to meddle in our telecommunications?

    Do you know what you are asking?

  64. Maybe there should be a way to withhold paychecks when the public is not served by elected officials.

    Certainly we are moving toward that. In several States now, when a budget is not adopted on schedule, no one gets paid.

    Locally, we seem to have a situation here where three elected Council People surf through staff prepared meetings with no input, no ideas, no nothing.

    Any ideas on how we reward them? Or not?

  65. Confusion? 1:27 and 7:06 seem to be in agreement to me.

  66. @ 7:06 PM

    Well we can whine about government but yeah, actually, I do want my local elected officials to give a damn about telecommunications. I want them to deal with roads, with water, with health, with safety, with electricity and ferries. How did telecom get a pass?

    Right now their time is consumed by the CAO, the SMP, advisory committee silliness and whatnot.

    Anyway, in the interests of improving the best management practices (BMPs) of whining and kvetching on the Trojan Heron, please study this absolutely hilarious piece making the rounds:

    "The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People: How to succeed at self-sabotage."

    What's your favorite technique? I discovered mine and can't wait to put this work every day. This one is often used by board members of the Friends of the San Juans:

    "Always be alert and in a state of anxiety. Optimism about the future leads only to disappointment. Therefore, you have to do your best to believe that your marriage will flounder, your children won’t love you, your business will fail, and nothing good will ever work out for you.

    Exercise: Do some research on what natural or manmade disasters could occur in your area, such as earthquakes, floods, nuclear plant leaks, rabies outbreaks. Focus on these things for at least an hour a day."

  67. I think that Rick Hughes should go ask Mike Thomas County Manager the reason that we need a Director of Emergency Services. The County has proven yet again just how counterproductive they are in terms of serving the public on a reasonable basis.

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