Editorial: Reach for informationIt was nice to see that Qwest has heard the call on the North Shore for some dialogue on what happened surrounding the fiber optic line break Jan. 26.
It was nice to see that Qwest has heard the call on the North Shore for some dialogue on what happened surrounding the fiber optic line break Jan. 26. Minnesota President John Stanoch made a trip up Wednesday to hear firsthand about what emergency responders and others went through during the 911, cell phone, landline phone, and internet outage that lasted 12 hours in most parts of the county.
County officials have been right to keep the heat on. If one thinks of the 911 service or the safety of residents with a customer relationship with Qwest and other data carriers, who wouldn’t agree that we, as those paying customers, deserve to know what happened and whether it could happen again.
As much as we demand to hear from the companies responsible for those lines, we need to take heed of what Lake County Emergency Management Coordinator B.J. Kohlstedt says in her report on the outage provided to the county board.
“Once again we recognize our dependence upon technology, our lack of understanding of the different methods and routes of the ‘magic,’ and (need) to have backup systems for when technology invariably fails.”
It’s up to the county and residents to be more aware of who owns what and where we might be able to get service should an outage occur again.
Many people found the breakwall on Agate Bay in Two Harbors a good place to make cell calls that traced across Lake Superior. Some companies and residences had satellite service. Had emergency officials known more fully of these small openings in a downed system, it could have better communicated with the world outside to get information to radio and television stations, emergency services in St. Louis County, or better coordination between Lake and Cook County emergency responders.
Who would have thought corrupted hardline service would take out cell phones? That may have been the greatest assumption of all as we enter a burgeoning world of wireless. But cell calls along the rugged North Shore often have to be relayed, through lines, on the ground between cell towers. The outage was a good way to learn this lesson.
Kohlstedt has good recommendations, including adding satellite service at the courthouse and providing more training to emergency responders in radio communication, still a vital technology from the past.
With Qwest, Frontier, and even the county’s own planned broadband service, we’ll need to know how service will be laid out and what to expect when something inevitably happens again.
If residents are more aware and more demanding, these providers have to come through. Despite all of the successes during crunch time on that fateful day, all of us need to be more prepared for the next time.
Making good suggestions and opening the dialogue are excellent ways to do that.