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CenturyLink Outage: OPALCO Carrying Phone and Data Traffic over Co-op Fiber and Microwave Radios

David Harold splicing
OPALCO Communication Technician David Harold splicing fiber in the field

OPALCO crews have been working around the clock to provide a temporary solution for our co-op members impacted by the CenturyLink outage. OPALCO’s data communications system is now carrying the phone and data traffic for San Juan Island, and providing 911 and phone solutions for the rest of San Juan County until CenturyLink can repair or replace their failed submarine cable.

OPALCO has a robust data communications system in place to serve our electric distribution system, which includes redundancy for emergency back-up. We were able to quickly redirect CenturyLink’s San Juan Island traffic to a redundant link in our system, committing the staff, expertise and infrastructure resources necessary to help our fellow utility and get basic service to our membership in the interim. We are utilizing our back-up capacity (redundancy) on our co-op fiber and microwave radio links to route traffic between the islands and to the mainland.

OPALCO redundant microwave radio link
OPALCO redundant microwave radio link

Our technology team and field crews have been cooperating closely with CenturyLink to establish solutions and quickly deploy them. OPALCO has dedicated more than 300 staff hours to this effort since work began on Tuesday afternoon—our line crew working through the night to install equipment and technology, our technology team configuring and testing connections and OPALCO leadership coordinating the joint efforts. Amidst it all, no one has been working harder than OPALCO’s fiber splicer, David Harold.

“Splicing fiber is a meticulous and skillful task and requires a detailed understanding of the system,” says Rick Lysen of OPALCO’s Island Network, who has been coordinating the technical side of this effort. “David has been out in the field since Tuesday, working intensively to make emergency splices for this solution, reconnecting us with the outside world.”

As always, our island communities are coming together to help each other out. On Orcas, volunteers flocked to the Eastsound fire station on Wednesday night to participate in “Operation Meet your Neighbor,” knocking on doors to make sure everyone was okay. Those without Internet connections lined up at public libraries to take advantage of OPALCO’s fiber (Island Network) connections.

Island Network delivers data communications capacity to public institutions as well as some commercial entities. There is currently a moratorium on new connections through Island Network as the Co-op goes through a comprehensive infrastructure design and review process.

For the latest information, go to OPALCO’s website:, Facebook (Orcas Power & Light Cooperative) and Twitter (@orcaspower).


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