Schatz Presses Companies For Answers On Internet, Cable, Cell Phone Outage And Their Slow Response To Residents On Kauai, Calls For Plan To Prevent Future Outages

Kauai Experienced Islandwide Outage Last Week For Prolonged Period, Impacting Residents and Businesses, Disrupting Basic Services

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), lead Democrat on the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, called on telecom companies to provide answers on the islandwide phone, internet, and cable TV outage that occurred last week on Kauai. According to reports, the outage lasted for at least a day for many residents. Many in the community voiced complaints about Spectrum’s response and their failure to provide quick, relevant information to residents about the outage, and more importantly, information on when services were expected to be restored.

“Hawai‘i is uniquely vulnerable to service disruptions due to the limited number of undersea cables supporting telecommunications for the islands. Companies serving Hawai‘i must account for these challenges and ensure that the infrastructure they count upon to deliver service is reliable,” Senator Schatz wrote.

In his letter to service providers Spectrum, Verizon, and CenturyLink, a co-owner of the fiber-optic cable line that reportedly caused the outage, Schatz requested a detailed account of what occurred, why information was not immediately communicated to residents, and why it took a prolonged period of time to restore service.

“The outages on Kauai are a good example of how failed infrastructure that has not been made redundant can disrupt the lives and businesses of Hawai‘i residents. I am particularly concerned that the outage appears to have contributed to interruptions of 911 services, which could have had potentially serious consequences,” Schatz continued.

The full text of the letter to Spectrum can be found below. PDF copies of all letters are available here.

Dear Mr. Rutledge:

I write to express my concern regarding the recent service outages that impacted the island of Kauai in Hawai‘i. I understand that sometime on October 27, 2019, a CenturyLink undersea fiber optic cable between Kauai and Oahu was damaged, which resulted in loss of Spectrum services across Kauai. It is also my understanding that this outage left many of the island’s residents and businesses without access to phone, internet, or cable services for a 24-hour period, with some customers experiencing outages for up to two days.  There was also a subsequent outage beginning on November 1. 

Hawai‘i is uniquely vulnerable to service disruptions due to the limited number of undersea cables supporting telecommunications for the islands.  Companies serving Hawai‘i must account for these challenges and ensure that the infrastructure they count upon to deliver service is reliable.  This includes design and engineering that incorporates adequate redundancy in case of network path or equipment failure so that people and businesses in Hawai‘i remain connected.

The outages on Kauai are a good example of how failed infrastructure that has not been made redundant can disrupt the lives and businesses of Hawai‘i residents. I am particularly concerned that the outage appears to have contributed to interruptions of 911 services, which could have had potentially serious consequences. 

Accordingly, to understand how Spectrum is addressing these challenges and ensuring that these types of outages do not happen again in the future, please provide my office with a written response to the questions listed below by November 22, 2019. 

  1. When did the outages begin and end?  Provide dates and times.
  2. When were customers and regulators given information about the outages?  What information was provided, including whether they were informed about how long the outages were expected to last?
  3. When did you become aware of the disruption to the fiber optic cable?  When did you first receive communication from CenturyLink about that disruption?
  4. Is network redundancy built into your service for Kauai Island and how?  If so, what is your plan to enhance the redundancy for Kauai customers?  If not, why not and how will you address this deficiency?

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.

###