It looks like the North Coast’s AT&T customers will be entering the modern era of telecommunications reliability. Next year.
In a letter sent to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors today, the company said it’s “upgrading the North Coast network to significantly increase the network’s protection against outages or service disruptions caused by fiber damage.” The company has been plagued by a pair of recent outages — the first in September, when someone sliced through a fiber optic line between Ukiah and Hopland, and the second earlier this month, when a CalTrans crew near Fortuna severed the line while clearing a culvert — that have left tens of thousands of customers without cell phone, internet and home phone service. (Those came on the heels of another blackout in October, 2014.)
The outage earlier this month alone impacted an estimated 90,000 customers and had reverberating public safety and economic impacts, prompting North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire to say, “This shouldn’t happen in 2015.”
In its letter to the board, AT&T expanded on its plan to provide more reliable service by the close of 2016: “AT&T will upgrade the wire centers on the main route of the network in the area by installing new equipment in the central offices and programing that equipment to route traffic over diverse fiber paths. This means that if fiber is cut on one side of the wire center, the equipment will be able to switch and reroute through another path, thereby making the network more resilient and reducing the risk of outages in Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties.”