Opinion

A major wake-up for San Juan Island communities | Colleen Armstrong

We  applaud the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for recommending CenturyLink be fined more than $170,000 for the 10-day communications outage last November that created an upheaval in the San Juans.

Until the temporary fix – facilitated with help from Orcas Power and Light Cooperative  – was put in place, 911 was inoperable in the islands for days.

Many businesses were unable to use credit card machines and San Juan Islanders did not have Internet for close to a week.

It was a disaster and if anything major had occurred – like a storm or a serious crime or accident – it would have been chaos.

At the time, it left us wondering: why isn’t there a back-up plan?

Since the incident, CenturyLink  says it is “actively working to provide network redundancy. This redundancy will allow voice, Internet, 911 and other critical services to be rerouted onto other facilities to maintain service in the event of a fiber cut within the islands.”

It committed more than $500,000 for system improvements to ensure back-up service in the event of a future outage.

In February, CenturyLink began phase one of providing redundancy from Friday Harbor to Eastsound and Lopez. It is increasing the capacity on the existing fiber optic network between Mount Constitution and Eastsound to support the new microwave radio system to be installed from Friday Harbor to Mount Constitution.

This is great headway.

We also strongly support OPALCO moving forward with a Broadband project, and we were very disappointed when it was scaled back after there was not enough membership support in 2013.

Whether you agree with it or not, the reality is that we live in a time where just about everything is connected to technology. We must have additional resources in place for this kind of emergency.

We hope the seriousness of this outage was a major wake-up call for our primary service provider, the county, OPALCO and our communities.

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