Yes, it’s true. Suddenlink and Verizon are not taking any new internet customers. As Suddenlink corporate spokesman Pete Abel said this week, “The bandwidth – or size of the circuits that connect that area to the larger Internet – is already at capacity, meaning we cannot add new customers without compromising the experience of current customers.”
“We’re all in the same boat,” he added. “It’s a limited highway and we can only put so many cars on it.”
While that will change with the imminent Digital 395 project – Geisel says it’s expected to break ground in April and be completed by next summer – for now, new customers are largely stuck having to buy Verizon wifi cards, which are not effective in some areas (Old Mammoth Road being one example).
Geisel spoke to Verizon corporate this week, which has also suspended any new Internet account service, including its FiOS brand bundled service package. Verizon’s FiOS fiber optic service packages High Definition TV, Internet and digital voice over Internet (VOIP) phone service. A call to Verizon’s Fiber Optic and Customer Service divisions confirmed that both cellular and landline phone service aren’t affected, but anything having to do with Internet service, via both copper wire and fiber optic delivery methods, is currently listed as not available.
Verizon service is fed to the Mammoth Lakes area via a fiber optic transmission line originating in Bishop, which contains roughly 12 strands of cable. The cable run between Bishop and Mammoth, according to various historical accounts, started off during the early 2000s. Crews compiled miscellaneous lengths of unused fiber cable that was spliced together, and coupled it to the phone lines that were already in existence up the grade.
About 80% of the way to completion, a fire near Tom’s Place in 2003 temporarily halted the progress, and at that point Verizon decided that with 80% of the cable already in place, it wouldn’t be cost effective to go back to the beginning and reinstall a one- or two-splice cable run.
The bandwidth problem seems to start there.
Technically speaking, research revealed that with fiber optic cable, every additional splice tends to diminish the cable’s performance, even if only slightly, and essentially leads to maxing out the cable’s bandwidth somewhat prematurely.
During the early 2000s, the cable was probably at or near state of the art quality, but has since aged 10 years. And at the time, many of the popular devices that are now commonplace and demand significant amounts of bandwidth, such as iPads and 4G smart phones, didn’t yet exist. Verizon’s Fiber Optic division stopped short of giving a definitive explanation, but indicated the reason could be simply that the existing fiber optic cable run is likely maxed out and doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate any new customers.
According to Jarryd Gonzales with Verizon Media Relations, the company is “working on expanding services to its customers” in this area, but it probably won’t be until the end of this year before new service might be available. Bishop, however, is unaffected and bandwidth is available there to handle new service orders.
That statement comes as no real surprise to Mono County District 2 Supervisor Hap Hazard. He pointed out that Verizon has been closely following the Crowley cell tower issue and Digital 395 Broadband Infrastructure project. Hazard commented that, based on his experience with both issues, it’s likely Verizon [and other providers] will opt to wait for access to D395, rather than upgrade the outdated, piecemeal cable run. “Their business model probably is to make a shift to last-mile provider status when D395 is up and running,” Hazard opined. “If I were Verizon, that would be the plan that makes the most sense.”