To the Editor:
The news in the MVT today about problems with emergency communications up-Island, and the lack of phone service, electricity, and/or other utilities, is disturbing but hardly a surprise.
When the DAS system was being pushed hard in West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah some years ago (eight, I think), several of us objected strenuously to the installation of DAS nodes. West Tisbury voted not to proceed with negotiations, but Chilmark and Aquinnah signed up. We attended meetings and presentations, and each time we raised objections to the installation, we were told that they were desperately needed for emergency communications during storms, hurricanes, and other emergency situations. We were also told that the customers demanded additional cell service for many reasons. When we raised objections to the installation because of the problems of communications via cell phones when the electricity is off, we were treated dismissively — a sort of patronizing “there, there, little lady; you don’t know anything about this complex subject. We need the bandwidth and it will work because we’ll install generators to provide power.” When we queried whether generators would be installed on every pole, and the length of time generators would function, we were told about eight hours, but not to worry because repair crews would cope.
Fast-forward to March 2018. With climate change intensifying and storms worsening, we had four major storms in March. I lost power in three, and the phone service (Comcast the only carrier able to provide Internet and phone service in my part of the Island) in all four. (Just a note: When I had Verizon, phone service was usually the last to go dead, often surviving an electrical outage.) Each time Comcast had to be reset (each time a long phone call on my ancient “flip mobile phone” via Verizon) long after electrical power was restored. Very annoying.
Now we find that all of up-Island has had similar problems during stormy March, and that many people endured long periods of no utilities along with loss of easy access to emergency services (PD, FD, and EMS). This was because the DAS node generators ran out of fuel and thus had no electrical service. Further, more and more houses are being built without landlines, and people have canceled their landline service as well. All of which has proven to be the nightmare that we predicted way back when.
I have no idea of what the solution may be, but more DAS nodes are not the answer. Putting all services underground would be an expensive solution, but it may be necessary, and it would dramatically reduce service interruptions. A very positive benefit would be our landscapes without power lines! Or you can think of your life with no power (and no heat) and no phone service for extended periods of time. Thinking back on our DAS experience, I don’t want to say that we told you so, but we did raise objections that DAS was not a good solution, and time (and a changing world) is proving the validity of those objections.
Virginia C. Jones