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Phone service to mainland restored, capacity limited; cell-phone, digital service spotty

A barge in San Juan Channel provides a platform for CenturyLink crews to work on locating and repairing a rupture cable that caused a five-day communication outage in the San Juan Islands - Contributed photo/CenturyLink
A barge in San Juan Channel provides a platform for CenturyLink crews to work on locating and repairing a rupture cable that caused a five-day communication outage in the San Juan Islands
— image credit: Contributed photo/CenturyLink

(Below is a press release from county Communications Manager Stan Matthews)

All San Juan County residents should be able to call and receive calls from the mainland and other islands via landline phone today (Saturday, Nov. 9), though there may be delays.

CenturyLink warns that customers may have to try multiple times to get through when call volume is high.

911 emergency service via landline has been fully restored, but emergency responders warn that many cell phone calls may still not connect to 911 emergency response centers. In an emergency, dialing 911 on a landline should be the first priority with cell phone being used only as a back-up.

Overall, cell-phone service availability continues to vary by location and service provider.

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 percent 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.

 

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