By Thea Skinner
Triplicate staff writer
Once again, several Northern California counties were disconnected from the Internet superhighway Friday.
The outage also affected long distance and some cell phone services.
Officials speculate that a T1 digital line south of Crescent City was cut by a construction worker. The disconnect marks the third time the counties have experienced the issue.
A T1 connection is a private digital phone line, mostly used for businesses. The digital line transfer speeds are up to 50 times faster than dial-up and is faster then other modes of data transfer.
"It happened between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.," said Greg Fauster, executive director of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, specializing in broadband.
Fauster said the disconnect was the result of "a break in the line between Humboldt and Mendocino counties."
"There has been a widespread outage. Cell phones were out Edge Wireless, Verizon and AT&T have had problems," he said, noting that the issue did not effect his U.S. Cellular service.
Working for change
Kathy Moxon of Redwood Coast Rural Action Humboldt Area Foundation in Bayside, said, "We have had an Internet outage three times in the last three months."
Moxon is spearheading the expansion of broadband infrastructure on the North Coast.
"Right now there is no regional strategic initiative for broadband. It is haphazard," she said.
Moxon said First District Assemblywoman Patty Berg's office, D-Eureka, was advised of data issues south of Sacramento.
"The main fiber trunk in the state of California runs along I-5. There are several lines that go from the trunk to many western areas. There may be a whole state undercurrent," she said.
"There is a gap in broadband between Humboldt and Crescent City. We both are focused on a second source for broadband."
The Internet disconnection has negatively affected the productivity of businesses.
"Some of us say let's go on vacation, and some say I am losing money every minute this is down,'" Moxon said. "If they do not have a satellite alternative they are losing money."
The chain reaction is frustrating. The Telecom companies are not that forthcoming about telling us what is going on, Moxon said.
"To do business 99.9 percent of the time we need an alternative" broadband route, Moxon said.
Moxon and other officials are in the process of creating a regional plan to remedy the issue.
She believes that "redundancy in two different sources of broadband connection" will provide the necessary alternative to the one I-5 connection.
"Many facilities are sending X-ray reports to people overseas to read all that stops," she said referring to the nine hours she was told would be required to fix the issue.
Some employees at the Sutter Coast Hospital's Business Office were sent home, unable to work.
Northern California officials along with others have attempted to upgrade the Internet service to Del Norte County and surrounding counties.
Pelican Bay State Prison has six lines of Internet connection, but the city has only one, said Ron Cole, Gateway Education Coordinator, who is an advocate for upgrading Internet connections in Crescent City.
Crossroads Wireless Holdings is an Oklahoma City-based company that applied for a rural broadband loan to serve Crescent City. However, Internet providers that seek to do business in Del Norte County may be ineligible for federal loans under rules.
New Department of Agriculture proposed regulations say government loans cannot be offered to companies looking to serve an area in which more than 60 percent of households are already connected.
In Del Norte County approximately 69 percent of households have access to high speed Internet through St. Louis-based Charter Communications, said Craig Watson, the provider's western division vice president.
Verizon and Charter Communications provide Internet to Crescent City. Both companies did not return phone calls Friday.