Editorial: In matter of trust, Qwest failsA good story is filled with heroes and villains. But life, we know, is not often so black and white. There can be a lot of gray in between.
A good story is filled with heroes and villains. But life, we know, is not often so black and white. There can be a lot of gray in between.
That’s what fills up the pages of novels and newspapers.
And so it is with the fiber optic line failure last week that knocked out phone, cell and internet coverage along most of the North Shore.
There were certainly heroes to celebrate Tuesday. Most of them come in the line of public safety. The amateur radio operators who relayed messages between isolated pockets of working local phone exchanges. The fire and rescue personnel who stood watch at stations.
The dispatchers who made due without regular 911 service.
Then there was gray, some of the less public moments. Perhaps someone who checked on an ailing neighbor. A business person who trusted a customer to return and pay or, conversely, a customer who trusted a server to run their card number when service came back up.
There is red as well. The lost reservations at resorts, lost business orders, the inability to process health information at the hospital.
And, given the economy, the real fear that dead line calls to a North Shore business brought an assumption that you were out of business.
Will that potential customer ever call again?
We’d like to have a villain in this story, but, so far, that character sketch is thin. Qwest is fitting the bill if you like obsequiousness on par with cigarette or multinational food companies.
Qwest touted the promise of high-tech 911 service, fast internet, a better connected North Shore. They’ve turned out to be good at promises but lousy on delivery when things go wrong.
Most people heard “All circuits are busy, please try your call again later” on their phones Tuesday. For more than a week, we’ve heard the same line from Qwest regarding what happened in Duluth and why there wasn’t a reroute up the Shore.
You can’t help becoming wary about how our technological infrastructure works after such failure Tuesday. Everyone was surprised to know that when fiber optic goes, so do cell phones. It was even more surprising to know that there was no detour for the line up the Shore. But that wasn’t technological indifference. That was a trust we put in Qwest.
It is good to see our public agencies shaking out exactly how our systems work and demanding answers on promises not kept. It’s a new vigilance that will go a long way when North Shore counties set up their own proposed broadband lines.
In the discussion about public broadband, companies like Qwest and residents alike asked why the counties weren’t considering companies already in the area to work on the initiative. Those were good questions. Tuesday’s events and the aftermath have made the questions moot.
To be fair, accidents do happen. Above-ground lines go down in an ice storm. Transformers blow. Fiber optic lines break.
But we have an expectation in the companies that run these lines that they have a plan, that service will be back up as soon as possible.
Like the ice storm last March, you’ll see crews out in the countryside working to restore things as soon as humanly possible.
When we understand the causes and effects, we give you a break to figure it out.
It’s different when Qwest lies about why its line failed and we find out its assurance about a reroute was pure fantasy. There ends any trust or understanding to calmly wait out its line failures.
With Qwest, everything has been below the ground, literally and figuratively. It’s answer that repairing fiber optic is “difficult,” the empty promise of rerouting, and the lack of explanation of the real cause of the damage in Duluth, are all unacceptable.
It’s as if Qwest prefers a cloak of mystery about its technology and we should be happy to have it at all. That’s a poisoned relationship to have with fiber optic as it becomes ubiquitous in our lives.
Qwest, tell us what really happened under that street in Duluth, and, if it was the result of your own negligence, own up to it. Tell us why you told customers, including agencies responsible for public safety, you had a plan, a reroute in the case of a line break, but really didn’t.
And tell us why we should trust you again with this vital link to safety, health, and business along the North Shore.
While plots can be richer for their villains, we’d rather not have one in this story.