Monday, November 18, 2013

In The Dark - Epilogue

The crisis is over, and by now, it's all been written ... it's all been said. There are many articles and commentary in the local news about how poorly this situation was handled. There is no doubt that many people worked very hard to rectify this situation as quickly as possible, BUT ... there is no escaping the fact that we have a vulnerable custom-built communications link with no way to reliably get word out when it goes haywire.

Some are calling for greater planning and coordination for next time, and that's hard to argue with. However, I am not sure greater planning, at least by government, is the answer. I am not sure greater reliance on government during a crisis is the answer either. Our government just isn't that reliable, and I doubt it ever will be. After all, our local government has trouble managing its own day-to-day affairs, so we shouldn't have unrealistic expectations about its capabilities when we actually need help.

We got what we can expect. To prepare for next time, we should encourage the things that worked for us in this situation ... personal initiative by local businesses and individuals. We should allow more flexibility in communications choices (i.e., competition) so we are not beholden to one provider. Most importantly, however, any further emergency planning should recognize that during our next crisis, government is likely to fail us too.


  1. "We're doomed!

    Dr. Zachary Smith, Lost in Space

  2. Just read Nick Powers great column and Bob Jarman's great response. We live on fairly remote islands. Stuff happens, OK? Our folks in local government were on the case, to the extent they were able. I heard plenty of folks say to the effect it was sort of nice not to be buzzed by the net and the phones and have to actually get outside and talk to their neighbors, plus find new things for the kids to do.

    That said, I will wager that a campaign for redundancy is coming together quickly and could be a game changer. Bravo.

    That said, let's please, please not create a Department of Redundancy Department and hire a platitude of planners to figure out how to apply that golden rule of government spending: "Why build one when you can build to for twice the price?"

  3. Too late, we have had 1+ something "emergency planning" FTEs for quite some time.

    We know we live on an island and stuff happens. We handle that pretty well. It sounded to me like our locals handled most of the issues (first responders ham radio volunteers and OPALCO). CenturyTel should know that it's in the business of providing reliable service, including underwater cable.

    The people who liked the quiet are probably those without a small business depending on telephone or internet and those not worried about paying their mortgage or utility bills. We pay for phone service and its critically important.

  4. Over 1000 people signed up for OPALCO's first attempt at a Broadband offering. A few dozen vocal Luddites from Lopez and a few fiscal concern trolls wrote letters against the plan. It appears CL ran a "false flag"exercise promising to invest in the aging DSL infrastructure, which doesn't appear to be happening. OPALCO could use some real support to ignore the vocal fanatics who claim to never use the Internet, think dial up speeds are just fine, or want life in the Islands to return to some 1890's agro paradise!

  5. I know one thing. If OPALCO decides to partner up with CentruyTel to use our optical fiber, I will run in the next election.

    At CenturyTel they don't care, and they don't have to, apparently.

  6. So, according to 5:21 of you disagree with them or don't want enhanced technology, you are scorned and labeled as a "vocal Luddite" or "troll".
    Mock, scorn, ridicule.
    Have you considered a job with the friends? You seem condescending enough.

  7. Seems the pipe dream of "high paying" on island jobs via the net has now been crushed into oblivion.

    Good riddance! We need to County focus on bringing jobs and people to revitalize our "economy" here. People who will live here 365!

    With a VERY modest population increase we can do this.

    But, Bob Jarman will never get it done. Nor will any of the other tribe of three.

    These twerps have been sitting there doing nothing, no initiative, no ideas, no nothing, for month after month.


  8. @7:31 Don't be silly. A couple of days without service won't be crushing anyone's realistic plans to do their work via the Internet. It might be a wakeup call for people who think they still live in the Big City or the suburbs, maybe they also noticed there's no bridge to the mainland too.

    I've been doing much of my work over the Internet since the last millennium, I live here 365, 24x7, and I've had only a handful of downtime days total. I've had more time off for colds, flu, dentist appointments, and all the other routine things that come up.

  9. I forgot to celebrate Howie losing the election for Hospital Board! Dodged another mess, we did.

  10. It is helpful to remember we do live in the 21st century in a globalized world. Frankly yes, we've suffered fools gladly for too many years around here who have worked hard to crush and crash telecommunications. Luddites and trolls. These guys would just as soon tear up the roads and sink the ferries.

    We still have a highly effective tin foil hat brigade led by the Friends who have worked tirelessly to prevent islanders from communicating by obstructing the last technologies of freedom.

    This has been going on for decades ... fear-mongering wireless as if it were radioactive medical waste or something. Delaying and obstructing OPALCO's infrastructure program quietly behind the scenes at the highest levels with fears that "industrialization and development" will destroy our lifestyle and environment if that bandwidth program proceeds.

    And yet: The vision statement of our comprehensive plan calls for the development of advanced telecom. That was language hammered out by a very diverse citizen committee in 1993 or thereabouts. So why are we still letting these cave dwellers set policy? They are just minions of the Friends, perhaps unintentionally driven by their Utopian visions of a world that does not exist, allowing themselves to be manipulated.

    Make no mistake. This is a the same political element that supports the likes of Kevin the Broadband Blowhard, Lovel the Hutt, Howlin' Howie and and Jamie the Gimp. These are the same creepy clowns who want us all to live in little authoritarian eco-villages and labor in organic farming collectives while they relax in comfort facilitating massive planning studies on huge grants. All the while pretending to be Progressive Democrats, which they are not.

    When the dust settles out we will start to notice several small technology outfits in the islands who figured this out years ago, made sure they hooked into the OPALCO bandwidth program and as a result suffered no service interruption or downtime in the recent event.

  11. I thought Al Gore (Climate Hero) invented the Internet. You'd think the progressive environmentalist crowd would be all in favor of wiring us up.

  12. That was long before the days of internet warming and cyberspace climate change. If we were allowed to have real broadband here, babies and whales would die and 200,000 people would move here and we'd be choking on the fumes of coal powered dark Satanic mills.

  13. @ 10:53 AM

    How about the "Cerfrider Foundation"

    Oh, hear us Saint Vincent, patron of web surfers everywhere. We beg you, confound and confuse the Luddites in our Mist, and keep them far away from us, your loving and loyal servants of the Net.

  14. I applaud those who defend the idea good jobs will come here via the connectivity we have/don't have.

    "Isn't it pretty to think so."

    My brother, a Phd/MD, boring yes, good house guest, yes, must sit on the outside deck for his usual three hour morning conference call, because that's the only place the damn phone will consistently work without dropping the call. (We cover him with blankets.)(And, yes we bought a network extender, new tech that works some of the time.)

    Show me the money!

    We need someone who will WORK to get business here, NOT just a mayor who writes a letter asking starving businesses to celebrate the "holiday" clap-trap.

    As many here have noted, it is beyond time for all of us to concentrate on basics instead of this continuing waste of money and focus on the non existent CAO "problem." Chuck this thing in a recycle bin and get the old one out. Make some pen and ink corrections and send it off. Put the ball in their court! (And then have the guts to keep it there.)(A new County PA is clearly needed.)

  15. This just in: The wealthy Port of Friday Harbor has noted the burned out wreck of a building on the waterfront might have a charismatic attraction for those folks who used to earn a living there, you know, old memories never die.

    And, get this, it has become a visitor attraction! (One speculation is the sheets of torn flapping plastic cover now flapping in the wind do attract attention.)

    The news is; the port directors are having a large memorial sign built to ID the ruins just as I write this. Made by the last fine wood worker on the island, it truly will be a masterpiece.

    Well, of course, if you've got money, why not spend it?

  16. Couldn't agree more that we need our county council and staff to focus on basics (like improved broadband and cell phone service) and to stop messing about with such things as the SMP update now under consideration (and which, bye the bye, incorporates substantial portions of the invalid cao updates now in litigation.). Who, in their right mind, is authorizing county staff to continue squandering precious time and county resources on that exercise? Talk about waste. I thought we elected Jarman and Hughes to put the brakes on that sort of thing, but see little evidence that they are doing so.

    The good news is that the Pacific Legal Foundation has apparently joined forces with the CSA in the pending suit challenging validity of the cao updates. More power to 'em !

  17. And our State DNR, after the usual exhaustive study, has determined the runoff from the burned out Friday Harbor building is beneficial to eel grass.

    Arrangements are being made to burn countless waterfront buildings and leave the remnants standing to benefit eel grass.

  18. @8:26

    You may be lucky enough to have a business that can cruise through a 5 or 10-day period of on-and-off again phone/internet service, but please don't denigrate those who say they don't. In our case, we have spent years persuading national clients that we can operate a specialty law firm on an island that can be reached only by ferry or plane. Our practice is built upon the knowledge that clients can call and have questions answered promptly. Being told that our lines have been disconnected or getting no answers or busy signals undermines the work that we have done. We are the type of low-environmental-impact, revenue generating business that the County wants to be the backbone of the island's recovery. This will not be possible until we have adequate cell, landline, and internet service. (Kudos to Orcas Online for saving our internet!)

  19. @Peg Manning But, as your recent experience shows you clearly can't operate your business if you haven't done proper planning for service outages. You seem to have been hoping that your phones and cell service and internet would magically continue to function. Hope is not a plan.

    If you need to operate your business 24x7 with no downtime, invest in what is needed to accomplish this, and make sure your service providers contract to deliver you what you require. That's the free market way.

  20. @ 12:58 PM

    "That's the free market way."

    That's rhetorical noise. If this were true in our circumstances, CenTel would have invested in redundant infrastructure so as to enhance shareholder return. Not likely to happen.

    If this is to suggest that a small business should invest in the multiple path, as in having a Hughes satellite dish along with a generator and a crate of meals-ready-to-eat because the corporation we pay to deliver a quality service standard cannot or will not perform as advertised, well I guess so. Might as well stockpile weapons and get ready for the big one.

    Sometimes I wonder if Ayn Rand ever lived on an island.

  21. Did Century Tel promise you a level of service for the pittance you pay them each month? Did they break any promises to you when the cable broke?

    The terms of service in my agreement with them are pretty clear - I get service, maybe, sometimes, and have little recourse except for the fees they charge me when service is down. Same for my cell providers.

    Do you think Century Tel would have a great ROI for putting in redundant infrastructure to our county of islands? It's a miracle we have phone service at all if you think about it.

    If a business needs reliable communications, they need a plan for how that is going to happen, and they need to select vendors that can deliver a guaranteed level of service. I bet that costs more than your monthly Century Tel bill. I know I pay more than that to keep my business communications reliable.

    Then again, I didn't move here thinking it was a suburb of Seattle.

  22. Wait, what 2:53 ?

    Century Tel promised me high spped internet and charged me accordingly until I complained, so now I get a slightly reduced monthly charge for slow and intermittent service. As for the recent outage, I just don't wish to pay for services not provided. What the heck is wrong with that?

    I do, however, stongly agree that there is a pressing need for upgrade of internet/phone service throughout the county. Time to revisit the Opalco plan.

  23. CenturyLink terms and conditions for residential internet service:

    A. Service and Bandwidth Availability and Speed. The Service you select may not be available in all areas
    or at the rates, speeds, or bandwidth generally marketed, and some locations may not qualify for the
    Service even if initial testing showed that your line was qualified. We will provision qualified HSI Service
    lines at the maximum line rate available to your location based on our standard line qualification
    procedures, unless you have selected a level of service with a lower maximum line rate. Bandwidth is
    provided on a per-line (not a per-device) basis. The bandwidth available to each device connected to the
    network will vary depending upon the number, type and configuration of devices using the Service and the
    type of use (e.g., streaming media), among other factors. The speed of the Service will vary based on
    network or Internet congestion, your computer configuration, the condition of your telephone line and the
    wiring inside your location, among other factors. We make no guarantees or representations related to
    download or upload speeds. We and our suppliers reserve the right, at any time, with or without prior
    notice to you, to restrict or suspend the Services to perform maintenance activities and to maintain session
    control. We assume no responsibility or liability for interruption of the Services or Service performance

  24. Right. And a gracious good afternoon sir, this is Ernestine from the telephone company. By the way that's the residential terms not the business terms.

    Sounds like CenturyLink has no plan. Here's the deal. We have used OPALCO as an occasional competitive threat to squeeze more resources out of the phone company. This game has been going on for decades.

    And, whenever libertarian free-thinking independent islanders start to organize yet again to move their locally owned utility to get into the photon business we get scolded that this is somehow anti-competitive, anti-business, an affront to the free market and free will, its creeping socialism, putting critical services in the hands of illiterate union controlled hacks.

    It almost sounds like it is our patriotic duty to protect the telephone company ...

    uh wait ... that also sounds like the same pitch we get that it is our duty to the Friends of the San Juanis to mind our own business while the CAO is rammed down our throat so we can protect our buffers.

    What if the Friends were really the telephone company?

    Listen very carefully in the weeks and months to come for subtle and not-so-subtle propaganda - that in order to "protect our rural character" we should not control our own destiny, infrastructure and local government here, but rather let the big fellas, outside interests and wise ones who know what is best for us just take care of things.

    Remember: CenturyLink has no plan that will do any of us any good. Neither do the Friends.

  25. Game on!

    OPALCO board toady voted unanimously today to start expanding the fiber network, buy some spectrum for wireless last mile, and actually committed money in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 budgets to do so. One Board member asked for patience, as to get to the desired end result in a fiscally sound way will take some time. Initial design for fiber network has been solicited from several national fiber engineering firms.

    Might be some progress here.

  26. Consider the economic multiplier impact:

    1) Consumer/business cash leaves the islands during every billing cycle, no multiplier (C-Link)

    2) Consumer/business cash remains in the islands much longer during every billing cycle, significant multiplier (OPALCO)

    Consider this reality when evaluating OPALCO's business case.


  27. Nothing says "I'm a member of the "rural resistance" like leasing office space to Depatment of Homeland Security". Nothing.

  28. Did anyone fill out the post comm break "damage assessment" form that was trying to gather economic loss data? Any idea when we get some real numbers?

  29. I have confidence in OPALCO (owned by us) and little else.

    My darn phone continues to think it belongs to Canada, and I wish it did along with San Juan County.

  30. Please check out the FB page NO DHS in Friday Harbor. We need support from all the island residents.

    That's Dept of Homeland Security by the way. We need signatures on two different petitions and bodies on Monday at 11:00 at the Mullis Street Fire Station.

  31. @2:27 am.
    I applaud your efforts. Word of warning. We will no longer be anonymous. The Feds have data access and supercomputers like we can't even comprehend.
    This current admin has also show a blatant willingness to target opposition using the IRS and other means.
    You are poking a hornets nest.
    Again though, I appreciate your willingness. This is going to get ugly.

  32. All of a sudden big government becomes incredibly competent and effective. Really? Wow.

    Go watch the new Hunger Games and fire an arrow into the heart of the empire.

    Other communities around the country have been able to change proposed locations of these kinds of facilities.

  33. 'Catching Fire' opened at the Palace in FH yesterday, full of kids, teenagers, parents. Theater erupted into cheers when Katniss takes down the game dome and exposes the Machine. And then the Empire Strikes Back. But it ain't over yet, not by a long shot.

    This is the real rural resistance and they are with you.

  34. 8:09 Can you find any documentation of any kind about the communities who have resisted this sort of thing? Names of towns? People involved? Successful reasons for rejecting proposals? This is very tough as there is already a contract signed. If DHS defaults they'll probably have to compensate Gordy P.

    I often agree w/Gordy but he is calling this "just customs! And they're already here!"

    !!! Money talks so very loudly

  35. "It used to be a relatively small number and Border Patrol people lived here and were involved in the community," Boos said. "They were invested. But now DHS is rotating personnel through here on short-term assignments, maybe two-year stays. They aren't involved in the community. They won't vote, for example, on school bond elections."

  36. Wonder how long we find out that a "secure homeland" requires strict environmental law enforcement, especially when a national monument is in play.
    Our neighbors to the south have a name for these guys. "The Federales".
    Well folks, they have arrived.

  37. Thank you Gordy Peterson and the Committee for Stability.

    Please leave. Move to Arizona.

    Just leave us alone.

  38. Stephanie Browning, co-owner of the Shell gas station in Forks has told Border Patrol agents in no uncertain terms to stay out of her store and stop harassing her customers.

    Hop Dhooghe, of Olympic Evergreens, says increased Border Patrols in the woods surrounding Forks is scaring away workers who harvest salal for him. He worries about the long term effect on the community. Photo by Mike Kane
    Hop Dhooghe, of Olympic Evergreens, says increased Border Patrols in the woods surrounding Forks is scaring away workers who harvest salal for him. He worries about the long term effect on the community. Photo by Mike Kane
    “I told them not to do their duty, or whatever they think is their duty, in here,” she says. “It is scary for my employees and for my customers when they come in here with their guns to harass and intimidate.

    “I don’t appreciate it.”

    - See more at:

  39. "What was once where three to five agents worked in a 600 square foot rented, second floor space overlooking Main Street in Rangeley, is now a 24,000 square foot, state-of-the art U.S. Border Patrol Station built on seven acres for 50 agents ... featuring an armory, six detention cells, helicopter and landing pad, training area, gym/fitness room, vehicle maintenance garage with space enough for 20 cars and a 30-space parking lot outside. The station, parking lot and landing pad are surrounded by security fencing and surveillance cameras."

  40. "You are part of the rebel alliance and a traitor"
    -Darth Vader

  41. “Betrayal clearly has its own reward: the small deep human satisfaction of having one up on someone else. It is the psychology of the mistress, and this regime used it as fuel.”

    ― Anna Funder, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

  42. Couldn't people just band together, pool their capital, and offer to buy Gordy's property from him, and then they could do what they want with it?

    I know, it's more fun to have meetings and marches and ask to use government force against him.

  43. Many supported Gordy in his political bids, and for good reason. A reasonable, likable guy with an excellent grasp of what's important. (Much like John Evans.)

    However, Gordy has in the last two years made some big mistakes on the best political path that would serve islanders. Because folks respected his know how and insider knowledge, large mistakes were made. (Lopez as king shit being primary)

    So now it is all about money. And what better place to get some than the federal government.

    Can you blame Gordy? I don't. A paying tenant in FH is gold. Word is, there are very few.

    So it comes to this: Are you willing to hammer Gordy or are you not?

    (Petition people were not present at Kings today.)

  44. This isn't about the decision to lease an office to the Feds, anyone can and should be free to do that. It's his blowhard hypocrisy that we despise. If this self serving duplicitous move gains us a silencing of el gordo's diatribes, hell, it might be worth it.

  45. Gordy has free will to make a private free market decision with devastating community impact and is free to face the consequences of his freely made decisions, the hall mark of personal responsibility in a free society.

    And, to be sure, this ain't yer grandpa's Customs Service no more, nosireeebob ...

  46. "Devastating community impact"?

    Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!

    Meanwhile, the Friends march on.

  47. I can envision letting loose the flying monkeys from the watch-tower.

    I am sure the Friends are delighted DHS will be right down town.

    And the Panem Dems now have a perfect punching bag for all time. No wonder the Mayor didn't squeak a bit. We now have the perfect anti-community greedy property rights Tea Party gun nut to demonize around the election time. Over and over. For years to come.

    Vote for Kevin! Remember: He's not Gordy! Kevin would never, ever crush your neck on the pavement in jack boots. As long as you love Kevin, that is. Gordy will just behave like Lovel and scream at you for being incivil and stepping on his God given rights to do anything he damn well pleases.

    I'll take that double scotch now barkeep, I ain't driving.

  48. "Occupy Spring Street"

    Spread the word. Pitch the tents. Call King 5 News.

  49. I have to say that most of the fuss about Gordy doing business with the Feds is just nuts, in my opinion.

    Remember, there were 150 businesses that wrote to the President asking him to declare the San Juan Islands a National Monument. Now, some of those very same businesses are opposing the presence of the federal government in downtown Friday Harbor. As reported by the Island Guardian, the San Juans are already the #1 port in the nation for small boat traffic. What did you expect? Did you really think you could support the NM and then NOT have other federal agencies here too? Did you really think you could attract business for your B&B, put ads in magazines, promote it, and NOT have increased presence of Customs and Border?

    Also, most of you whine and bitch and moan about being able to do what you want with your own private property. Not "liking" something has become the raison d'ĂȘtre for nearly every puking busy-body land-use law in this county, if not the whole country. So of course, what do you do? You start a movement to prevent a businessman from doing what he wants with his own private property. Not "liking" something isn't a good reason to stop anyone from doing anything. It's not your fault if I hate who you rent to, or hate the color of your house, or hate your garden, or hate you. It's not Gordy's fault if you don't like who he does business with. Are you going to make Gordy get approval from some self-appointed group of community-sponsors before he rents to anyone ever again? Feds are off the list apparently. Who else is off the list? Mexicans? Blacks? Republicans? Not "liking" something isn't the same as trying to stop it, and it isn't the same as trying to make it illegal. If you don't like it, deal with it. If you try to stop it, then be prepared to have the same thing happen to you next time you offend "the community's" sensibilities.

    Lastly, I'm as against the growing federalization of the islands as much as the next guy, but blaming Gordy for that is ludicrous. This county has been awash in grant money from the feds (and state) for two decades. This county and 150 business recently begged the feds for a growing federal presence, and then celebrated when it happened. You love the feds except when you hate the feds. You love the feds when you think it lines your pockets, but you hate them when it lines the pockets of someone like Gordy.

    I hope everyone who lines up against Gordy will open up their own lives to the collective decisions of "the community" because I can't wait to pick apart how you conduct yourselves and your business.

  50. I intend to start a petition and mount an aggressive activist campaign against the opening of the Marijuana stoner store in Friday Harbor. Because even though it is legal, I don't like stoners. Not liking stuff is sufficient reason to ignore laws and the democratic process and property rights. I don't want Spring Street to look like the area near the train station in Amsterdam. Drug soaked crazies posing in the gutters,

  51. Wow...the last couple posters don't see this the same way I do.

    I did not and do not support the Nat. Mon. status business. I do not want the presence of Homeland Security in my face every time I go through my home town.

    In the comments for the next post someone compared this to someone renting to Taco Bell w/out any previous notice.

    Maybe it's time for a shiny new McDonald's complete w/a plastic toy room to be constructed...let's about where Downrigger's stood?

  52. Back to broadband issues: seems like the Opalco meeting the other day went largely as expected, nothing like a crisis to get people behind improving the patchwork internet backbone to the county. Which sort of goes to show that Opalco's aborted rollout attempt some months ago failed largely because they failed to get the word out.

    Also good to know that the anti-internet FOSJ types seem mostly confined to Lopez - easier to keep track of them. Calling the Opalco board "stooges"? Seriously? Great way to demonstrate that "civility" in discussion that the FOSJ hangers on are always insisting upon when dismissing any rabble daring to disagree with them. Using Dwight as a spokesperson probably wasn't a great move either for the flat Earthers. Hopefully he took the opportunity while in Friday Harbor to swing by and apply for a couple of much-needed building permits.