Moynihan: Storm Reveals ‘Fragility’ of New Canaan’s Communications Systems

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White Oak Shade Road on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo published with owner's permission

New Canaan’s highest elected official said Monday that the town is learning much about “the fragility of our communication systems” following a storm that’s knocked out power for thousands of households for several days.

Officials are learning about both cell service and Optimum Internet access, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during a regular meeting of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure.

“Because I didn’t realize that the Locust Avenue building doesn’t have emergency power, so the Verizon tower was out, and then the AT&T tower was out at the Country Club,” Moynihan said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “Besides the fact that most people  have Optimum out. So that has been eye-opening as to what we have to try to do to improve the stability of our communications during emergencies.”

The comments came as New Canaan slowly regained power following an Aug. 4 tropical storm that saw guests upwards of 70 mph take down dozens of trees, limbs and power lines. At one point more than 80% of New Canaan had no power. As of 8:30 p.m. Monday, about 17% of Evesource customers in New Canaan had no power, the utility company said. (By comparison, Darien had about .6% of customers without power at the same time, according to Eversource data, while Wilton was at 23.9%.) Hundreds of New Canaanites have flocked to the library, Town Hall and Lapham Community Center in recent days for air conditioning and access to WiFi and phone systems.

Moynihan has been critical of Eversource’s response. The company said it expects to have New Canaan power restored by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. 

Public Works Director Tiger Mann said during the meeting that there are seven total crews in New Canaan, doing work such as clearing areas of fallen trees and debris. 

“The restoration side is a little more difficult, problematic and Kevin has been on that pretty hard the past couple of days with Eversource management, saying that we need some more presence,” Mann said.

25 thoughts on “Moynihan: Storm Reveals ‘Fragility’ of New Canaan’s Communications Systems

  1. How about some pressure on Optimum since alot of us work from home – have not seen 1 truck that says Optimum around town yet!

  2. Time for the town leader to lead. Not just tell us to contact Optimum one-by-one. How can New Canaan continue to attract and retain work-at- home homeowners once prospective buyers discover Optimum’s unreliability and poor service?

  3. Frontier has also been out since last Tuesday. Many of us work from home and have to leave town in order to get cell and internet service… Even AFTER power has been restored. Frontier still currently says “no restoration times as yet.”

    • Currently New Canaan is NOT a good work from home option. Power, cell service and WiFi needs to to very reliable and they are not. We knew this was an issue for years and the problem persists. Providers and public officials have significantly failed the residents.

  4. During the first 3 days of the outage I was dumping a lot of branches at the transfer station. Everytime I went past the electric substation, there were at least 4 bucket trucks parked inside without drivers. Didn’t matter what time of the day I went, they were always unused. And Eversource says they had to get crews from Canada. It’s all a money making joke. They get 9% from the state irrespective of their performance plus something from disaster relief funds.

  5. During the days where we had no power, internet or cell phone we used our battery-operated AM FM radio. We were able to get a station reporting on Westport but I would suggest our town look into an emergency radio station which could provide real time public announcements during emergencies. Glastonbury was the first town in CT to establish a Public Safety Radio Station in 1993. https://www.glastonbury-ct.gov/departments/department-directory-a-k/emergency-preparedness/public-alerting

  6. Does the town know that there are still streets in town that don’t have good phone-cell or home and are in a dead zone during the best of times? I can’t get my daughter in law in certain areas near her house and on the west side when she uses her cell phone from the car. This is unacceptable in a town like this and when houses cost what they do! Someone should be doing something about this after all this time. Worse in storms and they don’t have power back yet either. Time to move into the 21st Century, especially when so many people are working from home.

  7. With respect, Kevin, it did not take this storm for us to learn “much about ‘the fragility of our communication systems.'” We knew all about the fragility after Irene and the Halloween storm in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 and have been studying and studying and studying since then, with little discernable action.

  8. Further to Ms. Gregorio’s suggestion, we too listened to 90.3 FM Wesport emergency station in our car and learned more about resoration efforts than any other source…seems like an idea that should be looked into…

    WPII600 (1570 AM) Radio Station

    Glastonbury’s Public Safety Radio Station WPII600 (1570 am) was installed in 1993. This was the 1st town operated radio station in the State of Connecticut. Even now, there are only two other like systems.

    The system was founded by Robert DiBella, Glastonbury’s Director of Emergency Management. Director DiBella is the station engineer, and it is programmed and operated by Mike Roberts and John Walton. Recently, a state of the art upgrade was performed to enhance the capabilities of the system with digital capacity and remote access.

    In times of emergency, when power is out and normal communications are not functioning (e.g. telephone, cell phone, powered radio and television) this system becomes a must for a citizen to receive updated information for lifesaving purposes, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

    Constant upgrades are being made to the system for enhanced communications to the public. The station has back up system power to keep the station in operation during power outages. Remember in times of power outages, you must use a car radio, battery powered or hand cranked or solar for communications, so be sure to keep one on hand.

  9. Hello Kevin,
    Is there a way we could get fibre optics service providers to New Canaan? I am sure if there is interest some company might take up the project. Optimum does not care. It’s time it has some serious competition.
    Thanks.

  10. Please allow me to say something positive. Our power was restored late on Monday afternoon, and the tree folks from Iowa and the electrical folks from Missouri, especially, were hardworking, respectful and kind. I would very much like to compliment the Eversource crews, as well, but we didn’t detect their presence when our power was restored. (This doesn’t mean that they weren’t in the vicinity.)

  11. Regarding Optimum, it is infuriating that they do not publish a phone number on their bills. Instead, you have to go online to tell them that you can’t go online! If you are lucky enough to have their phone number stored someplace, after waiting 90 minutes they take another 5 minutes to look up your account in order to tell you there is a service outage in your area and they have no idea when it will be fixed. Why doesn’t Optimum take advantage of the fact that almost every street has a house with a generator on it, and work out a deal with the homeowner to power their nodes via generator when the power is out?

  12. This is not a new issue. When Kevin announced his candidacy for First Selectman in 2017, on his platform he listed improving cell service as a priority issue:
    Cellular phone service—“We need to solve the town’s problem of inadequate or non-existent cellular phone and data service in large parts of town. I will provide the political leadership needed to address this critical public safety issue.”
    https://newcanaanite.com/election-2017-republican-kevin-moynihan-announces-candidacy-for-new-canaan-first-selectman-52035
    It’s been 3 years. The time is now to live up to that commitment.
    Lets not stop there. Why not look into creating a town wide WIFI network and break the bonds that Optimum holds over us.

    • Completely agree with you! The time is now…for .universal cell service in this town. So tired of saying, “can you hear me now?’

  13. How is it possible that Westport, who experienced a tornado and 94 percent outages, has surpassed us in restoration? Perhaps we should ask them how they best manage working with eversource

  14. Put my vote in for getting the town to work with Verizon to install either FiOS fiber optic cable or better yet get them to be one of the few locations in the U.S. to install Verizon’s new 5G Ultra Wideband network.

  15. I spoke with an Eversource assessment employee who was brought here from New Hampshire. Having worked through other severe power outages in the Northeast, he commented how antiquated the power grid and equipment was in New Canaan. Can we expect any better outcomes when the next storm hits?

  16. Two issues were exposed by storm Isais:
    It is way past time for the Town and State use their public safety emergency authority to cut through the nimby issues which have blocked the placement of a cell tower on the Norwalk reservoir property off of Valley Road.
    Secondly, it is time to recognize that internet access is a communications necessity, and that provision of this service is a utility that should be regulated just as much as electricity. The free pass exemption from state regulation enjoyed by Optimum and other internet ‘service’ providers should be ended. Only someone who has never tried to reach Optimum by phone would suggest calling their abysmal, worst than 3rd world customer service for assistance.

  17. The “fragility” of New Canaan’s internet and cellular infrastructure is apparent every single day. If local government does not make this a raging priority, the town will become unlivable. It will remain (even more) impossible to work, learn, or thrive here as residents. We are at least 20 years behind with regard to residential access to internet and cellular services. Eversource and Optimum are wholly inadequate as vendors to citizens here, and even knowing that and agreeing on unacceptable liabilities – Connecticut chooses to not have close oversight.

    The “fragility” and overall poor performance of Connecticut’s electrical utility has also been long established. Knowing this, and understanding that Connecticut has no intention of holding Eversource accountable, I recommend a clear, locally-published emergency management plan to be disseminated by the town and updated annually. What is critical to know is how New Canaan local government will help the utilities to spot and identify lines down/service disruptions (it is clear currently neither the utility nor New Canaan government can do this effectively) and share clear information with citizens about where restoration work is ongoing and where it can be expected next. This should include a town radio frequency as sharing information via internet in a crisis is largely moot for most of the town (see comments above).

  18. Not only did Optimum leave us without internet and TV for 18 days, (our problem originated pre storm), but then sent us a $341.04 bill for the month’s service, including an $80 charge for a “missed service appointment”. We had no appointment scheduled for the day they identified – which fell on a day when we had no power anyway – and gave us no “credit” for the 3 scheduled appointments where they failed to show up and neglected to call to let us know they weren’t coming. When a technician finally arrived, he did a great job that took him about 20 minutes. Thank you Freddy from Connect One. Still can’t get a live person at Optimum to discuss my bill. Almost worse than the lack of internet, was the amount of time spent in a frustrating effort to get beyond their unhelpful recordings.

    • Hi Diana,
      My parents have suffered in the same way. A storm on 7/30 took power and cable lines down into the driveway. Eversource responded and corrected their issue, Optimum did not. Still without Optimum services, Isaias came and they were pushed to the back of the line until this Monday 8/17. Incredibly frustrating.

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