Monthly Fiber Update: February

Houston, we have a problem…


We’ve had a tidal wave of calls recently from people looking to get off CenturyLink Internet and phone service. If you haven’t been tracking the news lately, there has been discussion about the condition of the CenturyLink’s fiber cable that runs underwater from San Juan to Lopez islands. This is the same fiber cable that broke in 2013 and took the islands out of phone and Internet service for 10 days.

To Catch You Up on the Latest News…

Recently, OPALCO and Rock Island urged County Council to get prepared for a potential break in the CenturyLink submarine fiber cable that runs from San Juan to Lopez:

Several photos and details were sent to the co-op membership about the issue:

The San Juan Journal wrote this article as a follow-up to a public meeting between County Council, CenturyLink, OPALCO and Rock Island. This article explores the issues deeper and includes several notable sources including the DNR:

Robert Griffith, Vice President of CenturyLink’s western region said during the meeting:

“Clearly we’re not going to have enough capacity, redundancy capacity, in the time frame we’re looking at… it’s not all redundant. All the voice and 911 is redundant; we’ll have a little bit [of capacity] for data.”

While 911 and some voice may work – nothing else will. This is a problem for anyone using CenturyLink DSL, Rock Island DSL*, or a Verizon cell phone. This severely damaged fiber cable carries all of CenturyLink’s DSL and voice traffic from San Juan Island to the mainland and back. There is currently no redundant or alternative path for the vast majority of this traffic, which means a cable break will stop all CenturyLink-related data communications until it is either repaired or replaced.

We estimate that an outage like this would last from several weeks to a couple of months, and effect over 5,000 DSL customers and all Verizon cell phone customers on San Juan island. If you would like to avoid a potential outage if this cable breaks in the next 8 months until they can replace it, you most likely have some options.

How to Get Off CenturyLink’s Internet & Phone

It is possible to switch both your Internet and phone to Rock Island services. For Internet, both our fiber optic broadband and LTE wireless services are the best options, as they do not rely on CenturyLink’s infrastructure at all. For phone, we have partnered with one of the best, US-based digital phone providers, OOMA, to bring you phone service for only $12.50/month.

Call us to discuss your options at:


*Rock Island has been re-selling CenturyLink’s DSL services in San Juan County for over two decades. A fiber break would cut off all Rock Island DSL customers from using the Internet on San Juan until it is fixed or replaced. Rock Island Customer Support will be calling every DSL customer in the coming weeks to find a suitable Rock Island fiber or LTE replacement if possible and desired.



John Switched to Rock Island



When we say that we are in an Internet crisis in San Juan County, we are not just referring to our download averages (which seem to be about 1-2Mbps county-wide. Did you know the national average is currently 26Mbps?).

John is a former CenturyLink customer, a frequent CenturyLink customer care caller, and diligent record keeper of his upload and download Internet speeds. He told us he never got the speeds he paid CenturyLink for, and rarely a connection that was even usable.

Here is a quick video we took the day we brought our LTE Fixed Wireless service over for a test. He was skeptical that any Internet provider was competent enough to get him connected, but with 4 minutes of plugging into a power outlet, John was all smiles.


Free Technology Classes!


That’s right, and they’ve already begun! Please take a look at the program and see if there is anything you could use a primer on, or a brush up to an existing skill you already have.

This program is designed to empower you with technology, and everyone is welcome – and did we mention it’s free?! That’s correct, anyone and everyone is welcome to come and learn about the latest technology and trends.

We will be hosting a series of classes on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez Islands from now until the end of the year. We will cover a wide range of topics, and the curriculum will be the same on every island; don’t worry about missing anything or having to travel to another island for a class you want to catch.

Upcoming Tech Classes, All Free:

Device Connections
Friday Harbor – Wednesday, Feb. 21, 11:30am – 1:30pm
Orcas Island – Tuesday, Feb. 21, 10am – 12pm
Lopez Island- Thursday Feb. 23, 10:30am -12:30pm

Computer Basics
Friday Harbor – Monday, Feb. 27, 10am – 12pm
Orcas Island – Tuesday, Feb. 28, 10am – 12p
Lopez Island – Friday Mar. 3, 11:00am -1:00pm

OPALCO Board Member Mark Madson inspired us to create this series. And in partnership with the San Juan Library, the Orcas Island Library and the Lopez Island Library, we couldn’t be more excited to bring this to our community!

We’ll see you at a seminar soon, and don’t worry, there is no need to signup 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 folks. 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