Monthly Fiber Update: April

CenturyLink is at the Root


Tracking and reporting on the state of the Century Link submarine fiber cable this year has brought us back to our roots. In fact, the current iteration of Rock Island has its genesis with the Century Link fiber break of 2013. Most people don’t realize that’s where this initiative started in earnest.

This month we take a look down memory lane to share our history with you, and some of the stories that help catalyze the movement that has helped over 2,000 people get faster, more reliable Internet service and phone here in the islands to date.

We hope you enjoy this video recap and remember how we as a community turned a crisis into a positive solution.

Cape San Juan – A Long Road


The very first Fiberhood who came knocking on our door over two years ago was from the southern-most tip of San Juan Island. Cape San Juan and Cattle Point residents have been working with us ever since then to improve their Internet and phone service, and that long and windy road has finally come to an end.

Just this week, a final segment of the fiber backbone was spliced and lit, bringing the full capacity of our system to the over 80 fiber and 13 LTE Fixed Wireless customers in that area.

We are overjoyed with this accomplishment and wish to send a hearty thank you to each and every one of those customers for their enthusiasm, patience, and persistence working with us through this epic project!


Wi-Fi Calling on Your Cell


We posted a list of the number of cell sites in the county by provider in last month’s fiber update, and it raised a lot of eyebrows. People don’t generally know why they get or don’t get good cell coverage in their homes, in our towns, or on our roads.

It’s a number and location game, and we can confidently tell you that the T-Mobile sites that we have been implementing over the past year are in the best places in the county to give us all coverage. That list again is:

  • 4 Sprint cell site in the entire county
  • 4 AT&T cell sites in the entire county
  • 4 Verizon cell sites in the entire county
  • 26 T-Mobile sites in the entire county (expanding to ~38 by the end of the year)

If you haven’t switched your cell phone to T-Mobile yet, you might want to consider it. If you haven’t switched, and want to improve your cell service at your home or business right now, simply turn on a feature called Wi-Fi calling.

Most modern phones, like the Apple 6s for example, have a new featured called Wi-Fi calling. When enabled, this feature routes your cellular data into the Internet via your local Wi-Fi network. It doesn’t matter where you are – at home, work, a friend’s house, or the ferry – if you can successfully join a Wi-Fi network, your Wi-Fi Calling feature will give you the equivalent of 5 bars.

For example, on an Apple iPhone, you can turn this feature on by navigating to Settings, and tap on Phone:

On the Phone screen, tap on Wi-Fi Calling:

Follow the prompts and within a few seconds, you have improved your cell coverage.

Have you ever owned a MicroCell? You know, that strange little device your cell company shipped you or sold you to get a better cell signal at your home or cabin? Wi-Fi calling essentially gives you all the benefits of a MicroCell and more, without the extra device on your bookshelf. It’s now built into the phone.

If you have this feature on your phone, give it try. We coach people on this little gem daily at our Rock Island retail locations, and we thought you would be interested to hear about it too. Keep in mind, only the most current generation phones have this feature, and it may vary by provider.


Free Technology Classes


Are there any technology topics you could use a primer on, or a computer skill you want to brush up on? If so, this program is designed for you! Our free tech classes are designed to empower you with technology, and everyone is welcome – and did we mention it’s free? That’s correct, anyone and everyone are welcome to come and learn about the latest technology and trends in our 2-hour seminars.

We will be hosting this series on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez Islands from now until the end of the year at our public libraries. In these classes, we will cover a wide range of topics each week. The curriculum will be the same on every island, so don’t worry about missing anything or having to travel to another island for a class you want to catch.

Here Are Our Upcoming Classes, All Free of Charge:

Smart Televisions

Friday Harbor – Monday, April 17 10am – 12pm
Orcas Island – Tuesday, April 18 10am – 12pm
Lopez Island – Friday, April 21 10:30an – 12:30pm

“Smart” televisions are all the rage these days, but with all the choices out there, which one do I choose? The prices range from ridiculously cheap to incredibly expensive. In this class, we will look at the what all the lingo means, how to assess our needs, make wise choices when purchasing and what to do when I get the monstrosity home.

  • Why do Smart TVs make me feel so dumb
  • Deciphering and using TV remote controls
  • Changing inputs on the TV
  • Connecting devices to the TV
  • Obscure settings and what to ignore
  • 4K, 5K, 1080p … what does it all mean?


Computer Basics

Friday Harbor – Monday, April 24 10am – 12pm
Orcas Island – Tuesday,  April 25 10am –12pm
Lopez Island – Friday, April 28 10:30am – 12:30pm

Computers are becoming more and more part of our day to day lives, and the technology seems to change on a daily basis. So how does one even get started? In this class, we will very briefly look at the modern history of the personal computer, where we have been and where we are now. The purpose of the course is to provide a clear, foundational place from which to confidently start. We will demonstrate resources participants can use to become more confident in the technology they currently possess and how to make wise decisions in their future purchases. Topics may include:

  • Computer and technical terms
  • Storage vs. Memory
  • Files and folders
  • Understanding the desktop
  • Using a mouse or trackpad
  • Helpful tutorials and resources

We’ll see you at a class soon, and don’t worry, there is no need to sign up in advance. Just come on down if you have the time and we’ll be happy to see you.

That’s all for this month. Thank you for your time and care. We’ll be back next month with another Monthly Fiber Update. We appreciate your ongoing support; we couldn’t do this without you!

All our best,

The Rock Island Team