Many residents and businesses in Morgan Hill spent most of the day and evening Aug. 8 without Wi-Fi or cellular service, disrupting commerce and prompting an increasingly common refrain of complaints about the area’s subpar telecommunications infrastructure.
Charter Communications spokesman Bret Picciolo said the outage resulted from a traffic accident in north Gilroy the morning of Aug. 8 that damaged a utility pole and overhead lines transmitting data and phone service. The pole also housed electricity lines, which were also damaged in the accident.
“Damage to a utility pole, caused by a car accident, impacted service for Spectrum customers in the Morgan Hill area yesterday,” Picciolo said in an emailed statement. “Our engineers worked closely with the power company to repair the damage and restore service as quickly as possible.”
Charter Communications owns Spectrum internet services.
The damage also affected an unknown, yet apparently significant, number of Verizon Wireless customers in Morgan Hill Aug. 8. Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato said local Verizon customers were impacted by a “Charter Communications fiber outage.”
Verizon’s outage began about about 9:30am Aug. 8, according to Flato. Normal service returned to those affected by about 10pm.
“Our wireless network interconnects with Charter’s fiber network in the Morgan Hill area; the fiber serves as backhaul transport for data over our network,” Flato explained in an email.
Fiber-optic cables commonly house data lines owned by multiple, often competing, carriers of communications services.
The number of Verizon customers affected by the outage could not be verified, Flato said.
Picciolo said he could not specify how many Charter customers were affected “for competitive reasons.” Most Charter customers in Morgan Hill were back online before 10pm Aug. 8.
The accident that caused the outage occurred near Monterey Road and Ronan Avenue just north of Gilroy, Picciolo said. PG&E spokeswoman Angela Lombardi said the utility company’s crews completed work to repair the damaged pole and overhead lines about 8:30pm Aug. 8.
Lombardi said the damage did not significantly impact PG&E electricity service in the area.
The exact time of the accident at Monterey Road and Ronan Avenue could not be determined. Charter/Spectrum cable and internet were reportedly down in Morgan Hill before 9am.
The Aug. 8 outage slowed down some local businesses and posed an all-day inconvenience to residents, many of whom took to social media to vent their frustrations. Yet other business owners reported no effect on their normal sales volumes.
A twitter user titled “Tech Girl Financial,” based in San Jose, replied to a Morgan Hill Times report about the outage Aug. 8: “Thank you for the update. This is very disruptive to local business.” The account holder also tweeted to customers, explaining the outage was the reason the company has “been slow to respond.”
Calls to various businesses in Morgan Hill showed the outage was hit-and-miss.
An employee of Bubbles and Brew in downtown said the wine bar’s internet connection stayed up during the outage. Tellers at banks such as Heritage Bank and Wells Fargo said they were not affected.
Meanwhile, the Running Shop and Hops on Depot Street could only accept cash on Aug. 8, as their credit card processing system relies on a steady internet or phone connection. Evan Daniels of Bike Therapy next door said the business could not complete many transactions, as all of its registers and phones are internet-based.
Daniels added that many transactions were pushed back to the following day, as the outage lasted until after 5pm.
“Everyone was pretty understanding about it,” he said.
Cherisse White, owner of Cherisse’s Hair Salon on Second Street, said her business’ phones were down until 7:30pm. The salon wasn’t able to retrieve its 18 voicemail messages until after the internet was restored.
“Guests were not really happy they did not get a call back right away, but I did explain what had happened once I called them,” White said. “I did lose one customer. He did not hear from us and he could not wait, so he had a haircut someplace else.”
The salon was also unable to process credit card transactions, as the machines were connected to the phone lines.
“Luckily, we had some regular clients, and we just wrote down their information,” White said. White, who is the president of the Live Oak Home and School Club, said she volunteered that morning at the high school to help students register for the upcoming school year, but was unable to complete registrations due to the outage.
Lackluster telecommunications service in Morgan Hill—particularly internet service—has been a perennial gripe among local business owners. City Hall officials—who have long complained that the area’s slow internet is an impediment to economic development—are as eager as anyone to bring local telecommunications services up to acceptable modern standards.
“The city is aware that many residents are dissatisfied with the availability of internet services in Morgan Hill, and we are exploring ways to grow these services,” Morgan Hill Communications Manager Maureen Tobin said. “Unfortunately, there are not many things that the city can do to address this shortcoming.”
In a post on the city’s “City of Morgan Hill–Engage” Facebook page, city staff noted Aug. 8 that Charter/Spectrum household and business internet customers were experiencing the most direct impact of the outage, with some Verizon users seeing a “disruption of service.”
The post noted that City Hall was also affected by the outage, but was able to operate on a backup connection to South Valley Internet.
Police and fire authorities said the disruption was unlikely to affect outgoing 911 calls from residents in need of emergency response.
Tobin said City Hall is trying to find a solution to the slow, unreliable internet services in Morgan Hill. That process began earlier this year with a request for proposals (RFP) from potential high-speed internet providers. So far, nine companies have responded to the city’s RFP to provide broadband services to city facilities, and possibly to larger sectors of the community.
The RFP period is expected to close Aug. 19.
Charter’s spokesman confirmed the exact cause of the Aug. 8 outage after significant confusion among the affected parties. Some public safety officials initially thought the damage stemmed from a construction site accident north of Morgan Hill. Others thought it was related to a four-car pileup on US 101 early that morning.
Picciolo confirmed Monday, Aug. 12 that the outage originated with the Aug. 8 traffic accident at Monterey Road and Ronan Avenue.