Internet cable

The Gila County Industrial Development Authority took this picture of an unlocked cable box.

After a construction crew on Aug. 9 cut a cable and knocked out Internet and cell service to Rim Country, Zach Fisher headed south on his motorcycle to find a signal.

On his way back, he struck an elk.

Motorists stopped, but couldn’t call for help due to the outage. One bystander drove back into town and phoned 911 from a landline. But it was too late for Fisher. Doctors pronounced him dead at Banner Payson Medical Center.

Neighbor Jim Muhr, said Fisher’s tragic death could have been prevented if Rim Country officials had found a way to provide redundant broadband service after any one of seven other outages since 2014. Each outage has lasted for five to 36 hours.

“I don’t want to see another life lost,” he said at Thursday’s council meeting.

From vandals intentionally cutting the CenturyLink-owned line to crews accidentally splitting it while working, a single cut in the line is enough to knock out all Internet and cell phone service to the Rim Country.

Payson sits at the end of a CenturyLink fiber optic line that Suddenlink, Verizon Wireless and other providers all lease.

Solving the issue is simple, but costly. CenturyLink or another service provider needs to run a line from the Valley or the Pinetop area to Payson to create a redundant, loop connection.

Payson says CenturyLink has so far refused to install a redundant connection and so town officials have sought help from government officials and agencies.

At the meeting, the council unanimously passed a resolution requesting assistance from state representatives, the Arizona Corporation Commission and Gila County to induce CenturyLink to install a line into Northern Gila County or connect with another provider.

A Payson Broadband Consortium, which includes the Gila County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), has met often but hit repeated roadblocks.

Other service providers have expressed interest, but cannot currently, legally provide service to all broadband customers in the area. CenturyLink has a government-granted monopoly, regulated by the Corporation Commission.

“The committee came to realize that without sufficient return on investment or tighter regulations placed on the monopoly Internet service provider CenturyLink, there is little we can do to motivate them to provide better service, except perhaps to bring in competition or to apply political pressure,” according to a press release from the IDA.

The IDA is currently working through several options including, putting a fiber optic line from Colcord Estates 8.8 miles to Forest Lakes to connect with Frontier Communications, which would create a service ring back to Phoenix. The committee is also working with Cable One, which is in the design and permit stage of extending a line from Heber to Phoenix through Payson.

“The committee is moving forward with the plan to partner with CenturyLink with Frontier Communications and we are looking forward to their report in the next few weeks,” IDA officials write. “We are continuing to explore other options like Cable One to find the most cost effective and most reliable service for Payson. The common denominators in our broadband dilemma is CenturyLink and funding.”

CenturyLink says it is collaborating with the Gila County consortium on potential options.

“Funding remains the biggest hurdle and, at this time, no grant or other contributing funds have been identified for this high-cost project,” said Mark Molzen, with corporate communications at CenturyLink. “Historically, federal and state regulators have helped solve these problems through Universal Service Fund (USF) programs. We will continue to explore funding solutions with the consortium as we have since 2015.”

Councilor Su Connell said this is a critical safety issue.

Mayor Craig Swartwood said while officials have tried to play nice with CenturyLink, it is time the company understands Rim Country means business.

“This is unacceptable,” he said of the outages.

Contact the reporter at abechman@payson.com

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(12) comments

Guest

If payson wants a redundant circuit then raise the taxes and pay for it, every other city or company who wants to ensure they have redundancy PAYS FOR IT. So how you solve the problem is people have to agree to pay more, it dosent matter how much a company makes, you are not entitled to something free that everyone else has to pay for. So your solution is easy, get a grant, set up a go find me, but be prepared to pay payson!

Guest

My guess is that some people on the town council lost their Facebook for the day. Tisk.
Uh, you moved to PAYSON which is out of the big cities and you expect all the amenities of the big city?
Payson has always been overpriced with decade lagging technology (such as that sad excuse for a cable company).

Guest

From a trusted friend: Speaking as someone who worked in the telecom industry (Global Crossing) for several years, some of what is in this article is true and some is not. True the ACC cannot force CenturyLink (CL) to build redundant links. But rest assured CL will want to raise their prices one day soon and the ACC can make fixing this issue (and others) a part of being allowed to do that.

It is imperative that ALL residents in the affected areas call CL and complain about any and all service disruptions of ANY kind. This will do 2 important things. First, you'll be on record in case you want to demand bill credits (which you should). Second, these service records can be used by regulators and government officials to put pressure on CL to make changes.

Speaking from a purely engineering standpoint there are several options which Strawberry & Pine can take to address and improve this issue. But to move this issue forward it will likely fall to these 2 communities at the end of the day.

First they need to dedicate a person or persons to take point on this issue. Second, this person or persons need to obtain a copy of the fiber map for that part of Arizona (it's for sale, I forget the company). This map will show any and all fiber routes through that area, not just from CL but from all fiber installers/providers.

You have 2 state highways through that area, AZ 87 & AZ 260. Both these routes will have some form of fiber along them due to cellular providers and surprisingly enough ADOT! In most cases ADOT uses fiber to push information to their nifty overheads signs. All these people have unused fiber strands/capacity that can be leased!

Information is key! Once you have this information in hand you can then go back to CL and "call BS" on their claim it's too expensive to build redundant links. The links already exist, in most cases, and the fiber can simply be leased from the appropriate party.

But it all begins by speaking up. The squeaky wheel gets greased first!

Guest

Couple things (as a retired IT professional). 1. An empty conduit line run along a highway is like gold, an investment in the future. Its not just for "land lines" but can be used for fiber optic, which is what the article and issue are about. 2. The FCC is who the Council (and all of you) should be contacting; it is within THEIR responsibility to work with providers to induce additoinal capacity. File a complaint at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us?return_to=%2Fhc%2Fen-us%2Frequests. ITS EASY. You could have done it in the time you've read my response.......Scott O.

Guest

I thought the fcc didn't handle Internet services?

Guest

"Other service providers have expressed interest, but cannot currently, legally provide service to all broadband customers in the area. CenturyLink has a government-granted monopoly, regulated by the Corporation Commission."

What law prevents other service providers from providing service? My understanding is that the problem for other providers is economic, not legal.

Guest

Umm just so you know a witness drove into town and flagged down a fire engine that was on its way to the hospital...

Guest

Anyone who chooses to do their research will find the following to be true:

If you click on and read the below Arizona Corporation Commission URL
you will find “The ACC has no jurisdiction over Internet service and
Internet service providers. If you have a problem with your Internet
service provider, please contact them to resolve your issue.”
http://www.azcc.gov/divisions/utilities/telecom/gen_info.asp

Also, the FCC does not have the authority to order Centurylink or
anyone else to spend money on a redundant fiber feed for Payson. No
one does. That is a community request that an individual community
such as Payson must pay for.

A bit of history about this issue. Our local telephone company that is
now known as Centurylink, was looking into the very affordable at the
time, laying of an empty fiber conduit from Payson to Fountain Hills,
while highway 87 was being upgraded. (I believe that began in the late
1990’s.) Understandably, the telephone company chose to not install
their fiber conduit into the already open highway trenches, because
they were going to have to pay Arizona State Property Tax on their
empty conduit.

And now that so many people and organizations within our community
have reduced Centurylink’s income by electing to not have Centurylink
landlines, we really can’t expect them to be able to afford a
secondary link to our community.

We all were warned that this day would come. So was our State and
Local Government. And now everyone is upset because what we caused to
happen is now here, and everyone who caused it wants to shift the blame.

Guest

Lack of money is never an issue with Century Link. They rip off millions of people a day, and that is why no one chooses them for their landlines sir. My brother did not die because of the community. He died because of Century Link trying to cut corners.

Guest

their revenue in crazy leasing fees for all the other companies has more than made up for the crappy landline that was always riddled with static and dropped service.
you must work for century link

Guest

I really that hope you posted that in jest, because it's nonsensical. Either that or as the other commenter noted, you must work for Centurylink.

I have a friend who has an email account from Centurylink. They have had major issues with spam. Centurylink's spam filters don't work, yet here is the message that Centurylink has in their help section about such an issue:

"SPAM Web App is very efficient at removing unwanted SPAM, making it seem as if it may not be working. Although it may appear this way, it is actually removing SPAM behind the scenes so that it never is visible in your inbox."

I set this friend up with a Gmail account with the Centurylink email account coming into it. All of that spam? Magically gone. It's because Google, like many other companies, doesn't have to rely on Jedi mind tricks. They actually spend time and money to create a product that works instead of sitting on their hands and pointing fingers. People should not be fooled. Centurylink is the problem.

Guest

And what is Centurylink's annual profits??

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