As islanders, so many of us are entirely dependent on our connections to the outside world, those necessary evils called cell phones and Internet service. For many, it’s the only way we can keep in touch with family, friends, and current events. So the big event this week – a complete shutdown of cell and Centurylink Internet service – has everyone in the islands all wired up (please forgive my bad pun).
According to a statement released by San Juan County, “an apparent failure in an underwater data cable at 4 a.m. on Tuesday [Nov. 5] disrupted communications between San Juan County and the mainland and between islands in the County itself.” Rumors have been flying, as they will in these situations. I’ve heard a number of things attributed to the destruction of the underwater line in question, from the mundane (a digger on Lopez struck it) to the rather farfetched (earthquake!!). All I know for a fact is that the cable is indeed underwater, which means that an imported dive crew and a complicated process will be required to restore Internet service for all Centurylink customers (that includes us at the inns!).
The biggest impact, by far, is being absorbed by the local businesses in the islands. Many who import products haven’t been able to place orders, so customers are being turned away, and people are getting antsy. Merchants are losing money every second, because most can’t accept credit cards, and let’s face it – how many of us regularly carry cash in this digital age? Inns, B&Bs and hotels are also suffering, because we can’t accept phone calls for inquiries or reservations. So, our apologies if you’ve been trying to get through to us – we will return your messages just as soon as we can access them again!
However, as always, there are silver linings to our troubles! In small towns like Friday Harbor, in times of “crisis,” the residents always rally together to find solutions and help one another. For example, the San Juan Island Library has graciously advertised its free Wifi for all, whether you use their computers or bring your own – they’re even actively encouraging patrons to settle in their parking lot and access the Internet from their cars. Small technology merchants are offering their service for free as well – I know that Mike at Rock Island has been welcoming anyone to use his connection across from the courthouse. And as far as emergency services, those were restored in short order – but before they were, each fire station on the respective islands was ready to respond to calls in addition to their normal duties.
Islanders know they always have somewhere to go and someone to rely on when things don’t work as they should! It’s just another wonderful thing about the San Juan Islands. They say we should be up and running within 24-48 hours – let’s keep our fingers crossed. Thank you, dear readers, for your patience in trying to get in touch with us – we will be right with you!