In the Know: As residents cope at home with work and coronavirus scare, did vandalism or accidents bring down their internet, TV services?
Editor's note: Updated Tuesday night with new comments from Summit Broadband.
Internet and digital TV resumed Tuesday for many anxious Southwest Florida residents who couldn’t follow coronavirus updates or conduct needed company tasks from their residences due to Monday night’s long Summit Broadband outage.
What was still a mystery as the day went on was what caused a sudden "series of multiple, unrelated fiber cuts” on its network and where. Was it vandalism or a chain of unfortunate accidents or errors?
The company, and its new owners since January with a growing Southwest Florida footprint, Grain Management Inc., had made no public comments since Monday night and didn't respond to several inquiries throughout the day Tuesday on questions from the Naples Daily News and the Fort Myers News-Press.
“We realize an increased number of customers are working from home and self-isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Summit said in a statement Monday night, apologizing and saying it did “everything possible” to restore services.
However, after seeing this story on naplesnews.com, a Summit representative followed up Tuesday night with this columnist.
"We are in the process of conducting a thorough look at the issue," Marketing and Communications Manager Kelley Richardson said, before issuing a new company statement that indicated "services were impacted by two separate fiber-optic cable cuts on our Florida Intercity Network."
The company acknowledged "these trying times" and noted the damage was "caused by two separate third-party contractors working on non-Summit Broadband projects. Nevertheless, the Summit Broadband team is working to enhance the network’s design to ensure connectivity when unusual circumstances like these occur."
Residents said everything went down for them about 5:30 p.m. Monday and lasted as long as six hours, wiping out an entire evening of communications that was vital for workers.
Summit, which found its own website inoperable and also couldn’t send emails, acknowledged by 6:45 p.m. the problems extended from Marco Island, through the rest of Collier and Lee counties all the way north to Central Florida.
The company said “multiple teams” were working on repairs, and that it would provide updates via Twitter since it also was unable to use phones because of the predicament.
The situation made life more difficult for those who have been compelled in much larger number to use the web to handle job duties from their living rooms, kitchen tables and dens these days because of the pandemic.
“I’m working from home,” said Carmen Chaves, a senior analyst at Lockheed Martin, who had worried about an upcoming Skype meeting. “I need this working (so) I can stay employed.”
Added Aradhana Ramkumar, another customer on Facebook. “We are working from home, and we are answerable.”
Others just didn’t like “the worst timing that this could have happened” to be abruptly disconnected from everyone else at a scary point like now.
“Considering, what’s going on in the world, Wi-Fi is very important at this moment,” said Cris, a Twitter user known as Crispatrice.
Grain Management, a private equity firm led by Sarasota resident David Grain, has emerged as a major fiber network consolidator and completed its acquisition involving Cable Bahamas Ltd. in January of Summit, which has 1,800 fiber route miles.
Grain, who has served on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security advisory council and the state’s Investment Advisory Council, lives in the city’s fourth most expensive house valued at $16.6 million, according to Sarasota magazine.
Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.