Kutztown Borough experienced a nearly two-day Internet outage on Jan. 20 into Jan. 21.

After about 27 and 1/2 hours without Internet service, Kutztown Mayor Jim Schlegel announced via Facebook that Kutztown’s “Internet was back up!”

Internet provider, Lumen, had experienced an outage impacting numerous service providers including Kutztown’s Home Net.

During multiple Facebook updates, Home Net posted that onsite personnel located physical damage to the fiber optic cable. The affected span rides along a railroad so the railroad company was contacted to dispatch a flagging crew to facilitate traffic on the railroad giving Lumen personal access to the tracks and safely repair the damage.

Due to the light level results showing a fault approximately at 2,200 feet and 4,400 feet, it was suspected that the cable was impacted in multiple locations along the span.

At one point, the estimated repair time was approximately 12 hours, “using hand shovels due to terrain and safety measures… There could be additional delays due to railroad traffic as it is a single track area, and personnel must vacate the work area 15 minutes prior to any trains passing by,” according to Home Net's posts.

Field Operations spent multiple hours pulling slack fiber into the appropriate place and splicing taking approximately three hours to fully repair the damage. Once all temporary repairs were completed, the lines were secured and a permanent repair will be scheduled to take place under standard network maintenance procedures, according to the Home Net posts.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused, and we look forward to providing a much more reliable service to our loyal customers in the very near future,” Home Net posted on Facebook.

Kutztown's Home Net Internet service

Since 2000, Kutztown Borough has offered its own Internet service, Hometown Utilicom (now called Home Net), which has high speed Internet, digital phone and for 19 years cable TV. The Borough turned over its cable TV to provider, Yondoo, who competes with Service Electric, thus more reasonable cable TV, said Mayor Schlegel.

Kutztown Borough installed fibers optics throughout town in1999.

“It was done mostly to read electric and water meters. It grew from there,” said Schlegel. “The only problem is once in a while our Internet provider has disruptions and we lose it. They promised us a redundant line but never delivered. It became frustrating.”

Residents frustrated by repeated outages

Kutztown resident Warren Shaub presented his concerns about repeated Internet outages in 2020 to Kutztown Borough Council at its virtual meeting Jan. 19.

During a heated discussion Shaub raised concerns about the number of Telecom and IT committee meetings (8 out of 12) that were cancelled during 2020, meetings that he planned to raise his concerns about repeated outages for Internet customers, during a year that had an unprecedented need for Internet access for remote school and work.

“Public comment is not a question and answer discussion for the public to interrogate us, but I will answer your question,” said Council member Amanda Raudenbush, a member of the Telecom & IT committee. “My personal view point on all public meetings, if we have business to take care of, if things need to be voted on, then a meeting is warranted. If it’s a meeting to sit around and talk about updates that can be given elsewhere and provided to more people, I personally don’t think a meeting is warranted. We should be meeting for business, not just discussion.”

Borough Manager Gabriel Khalife explained that all meetings are advertised at once due to cost, so if there is a need for a meeting, it is scheduled rather than accruing advertising costs to advertise a special meeting.

“Yes, they’re all scheduled, but if there is not business, as Amanda said, it’s not held, so the meetings are scheduled as a safeguard so we’re ready to go,” said Khalife.

Shaub argued that meetings are the venue for residents to voice their concerns and obtain information.

“There is also a reason why we have staff, so you can call staff on anything at any point in time,” replied Raudenbush, suggesting Internet customers contact Home Net with concerns and problems.

Shaub explained his concerns further to the MediaNews Group.

“HU is not being managed the way any other for-profit enterprise would be. The really sad fact is that HU offers a service that no other entity does. We have, and regularly utilize 140mb+ speeds on upload. That number does not mean much to many, but when you have a spouse creating vector art for a living uploading large files is an everyday thing and speed absolutely matters,” said Shaub. “Fact is that the infrastructure of the BoK is in excellent shape, both electric and fiber networking, and HU's customer service and response is top-notch.”

“The problem comes when the Internet we pay for does not make it to Kutztown,” he continued. “There were legally-binding contracts signed to ensure that service, and we got shafted. I want to say that today's outage is the third or fourth in the last year to go over 24 hours, and all for the same reason. Outside provider issues.”

Kutztown Borough will have a new provider

In a Jan. 21 statement released via Facebook, the Kutztown Borough Telecom Department stated, “Due to the many outages we have experienced with Lumen, the borough has contracted with a new, more reliable Internet provider, Cogent. Cogent has installed two new circuits into the borough. These circuits are designed to provide redundancy and prevent future outages. We are in the final stages of testing and anticipate being able to put these circuits into service in the next 10 days."

Information about the activation of the new circuits will be available on the borough website and Facebook as soon as a date is confirmed.

“Once they are done with that, they’re going to start switching customers over,” Raudenbush shared with Council at the Jan. 19 meeting.

“So essentially, very, very good news,” said Council member Zebulon Hull, chairperson of the Telecom & IT committee.

Updates can be found on the borough website at https://www.kutztownboro.org/ or by following on Facebook by searching HomeNetKutztown.

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