SAUGERTIES, N.Y. – Loss of internet service for an entire community through an relatively simple accident has Supervisor Fred Costello directing some anger at Spectrum for putting secrecy and profits above basic community needs.
The incident was discussed during a Town Board meeting Wednesday, with Costello following the session explaining the scope of the problem that started a day earlier when a Torok Excavating truck on Hommelville Road severed a fiber optic cable.
“A low hanging wire was taken down … and tore down a pole,” he said. “It was almost a quarter mile before he realized he was dragging anything.”
Costello estimated the entire eastern section of town, including all of the village of Saugerties and Town Hall, had lost service.
The incident occurred at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, with Spectrum initially telling customers that service was expected to be restored at about 6 p.m. but it was about 10 p.m. before any level of service was restored. Full high-speed service had not been restored by the time Town Board members conducted their meeting online at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, with nearly all participants experiencing levels of lag, intermittent service, and bouncing audio throughout the two-hour session.
Spectrum officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Costello did not know how the loss of one section of cable could have such a devastating impact on the community. However, he noted the importance of internet service has been become even more significant as the school district prepares to resume in about three weeks with a dependence on video-based classes.
“There needs to be an initiative … to say it’s in the country’s national interest to have an internet connection just as it was in the country’s national interest to commit to having a national highway, as it was to electrifying our country, as it was to connecting the telephones,” he said.
Costello was troubled by conditions put forward by Spectrum to prevent town officials from learning about improvements under the state Broadband for All program that requires rural areas receive high speed internet service.
“Spectrum had to commit itself to a build out a plan,” he said. “That plan is proprietary. They won’t share it unless I sign a non-disclosure agreement. I don’t want to sign that non-disclosure agreement because it handicaps my ability to advocate for residents.”
Costello articulated the concerns by noting that internet service should not victimize people by having phone service lost for emergency contacts or being unable to keep doctor’s appointments that are now done through video conferencing.
“This is…getting a different lens because of the pandemic,” he said. “Spectrum is right now almost a monopoly as far as the opportunities to access the internet.”
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