Monthly Fiber Update: July

Here we go…

The work to replace the decaying CenturyLink fiber cable that runs from San Juan to Lopez has begun in earnest. Take a deep breath… the moment has arrived.

CenturyLink has been taking action in recent weeks to replace their fraying and decaying submarine fiber cable that broke in 2013. This cable replacement project is being done with the goal of improving the condition of the fiber pathway that CenturyLink uses to haul all of their voice and data traffic off the islands, as well as all Verizon data from San Juan.

A CenturyLink contractor tosses the existing, fragile fiber cable from San Juan to Lopez on the rocks.

Their secondary goal is to make way for OPALCO who is replacing their submarine power cable in September. Their current, handicapped cable has tangled itself around the OPALCO power cable in several locations, violating OPALCO’s utility easement, and causing an unnecessary risk to all communications and power customers in our county.

So now the project moves forward and things are progressing as planned. Crews have been dispatched to lay conduit, clear the beaches and prepare for the new cable coming soon. We have heard that CenturyLink is following the timetable below:

  • July 26: The barge that will install the new CenturyLink fiber cable arrives
  • July 29: They will pull the new fiber cable on the San Juan side, then move to Lopez
  • Aug 4: They will start to recover the old cable
  • Aug 9: Fully complete the project in time for OPALCO to being their work

As they handle their fiber cable and cut over to their new one once installed, there is a risk that cable will break. To mitigate that risk from our end, Rock Island has installed, and has up and running multiple wireless radios on several islands for redundancy.

We currently have about 4.7 Gbps of wireless capacity in case this fiber cable does break, meaning that all Rock Island fiber and LTE customers, as well as all T-Mobile customers, will not experience any change in service. Whew!

CenturyLink still hasn’t disclosed a backup plan for their DSL or ours, or all of Verizon’s customers. We will keep you posted as things progress, and think good thoughts. No one wants to see this fail.


T-Mobile Retail Arrives!


What is all the hub-bub about T-Mobile, and how does it fit into the Rock Island story?

Well, in simple terms, Rock Island and T-Mobile have a symbiotic partnership that serves both parties well. On the Rock Island side, we’re providing fiber and power to cell site locations. T-Mobile is bringing the electronics and the actual wireless network to the table, and both of us get to enjoy the benefits of the network we create.

Rock Island has launched our LTE Fixed Wireless product so that customers can enjoy fast, modern scale Internet in their homes like never before. For T-Mobile, they can ensure their phone customers get incredible connectivity in the islands without compromise. So that’s the skinny.

One additional part of the agreement is that Rock Island would open a retail store to allow the community to sign up for service without having to take a trip to the mainland. To that end, we launched a co-branded Rock Island/T-Mobile retail shop in Friday Harbor in May.

Customer response has been down-right overwhelming! With over 300 new customers coming onto T-Mobile in the past 60 days, it’s fair to say the store is a success and is here to stay. We hope you stop by soon to say hello.

Here are some of the main bullet points that have won new customers for T-Mobile:

  • No contracts for service – all plans are month to month
  • Flat-rate pricing – all taxes and fees are included
  • Canada and Mexico calling included for free – no more roaming fees on the west side!
  • Unlimited data use and video streaming – gobble as much data as you want at no charge
  • Did we mention it actually works? Verizon, AT&T and Sprint have 4 cell sites each; we have 40. You simply can’t compare T-Mobile to anyone else in the islands.

Come on down to visit our new store at 345 Court Street in Friday Harbor. We have a new staff, and they are fired up and ready to answer any questions you may have.

Introducing Our Mini Mobile Store – A New Way to Buy Local


Don’t want to sail to Friday Harbor? No problem. We will come to you! Meet the newest member of our fleet, designed to get you onto either a T-Mobile phone or our Rock Island LTE Internet. Keep your eyes peeled for our hot little Mini. We’ll be traveling to Lopez, Shaw, Orcas and wherever else we can drive it to bring the revolution to you!


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 right, 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:

Email Tips Tricks & Etiquette

Good email habits keep you and your contacts safe.
Learn about attachments, CC, BCC and correct email forwarding etiquette.
Learn how to share websites, Facebook posts and pages and more.

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

Photo Editing and Organizing on a PC

Get your photos organized into albums and events.
Learn about the different file formats – their advantages and disadvantages.
Learn how to crop, brighten, enhance and share your photos.

Friday Harbor – Monday, July 31, 10am – 12pm
Orcas Island – Tuesday, August 1, 10am – 12pm
Lopez Island – Friday, Aug. 4, 1 – 3pm

See the rest of our schedule and learn more about our Rock Tech Classes on our website:

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 greet you.