On April 5, a Seaside Public Works crew was busy readying a derelict, city-owned property at 1561-1571 Del Monte Blvd. in order to convert it into a parking lot. In the process, the crew came across wire, lying above ground, that connected to a utility box near a telephone pole next to the former railroad tracks, at the rear of the property. The other end of the wire wrapped around the northwest corner of the property and went into a box near Midas, on the southwestern side of the lot.
Believing that the wire must no longer be live – it was above-ground, on a vacant lot – a Seaside worker cut it and rolled it up so that the crew could begin grading.
But, it turns out, that wire provided internet service to American Lock & Key, which is on the northeastern side of the lot. When a contractor for Comcast came out after that outage was reported, Dave Fortune, a superintendent for Seaside Public Works, says they told the Seaside crew what the issue was, but assured them the rest of the property was clear of any utilities.
Eight days later, on April 13, after having graded much of the property, Seaside workers were digging a drainage swale next to the sidewalk on Del Monte so that runoff from the lot percolated into the Seaside Basin, rather than running off onto the street.
While digging out that swale with a backhoe around 7:30am, a Seaside employee severed an underground fiber-optic line that provides thousands of Seaside residents and businesses – and some in Salinas – with their internet service.
Fortune (who wasn’t there but was briefed on what happened) says an employee from Midas soon came out to tell the workers the business’ internet had gone out. Believing that the site was clear of active utilities, a Seaside crew member nonetheless called his supervisor to tell him what just occurred.
The supervisor’s internet had just gone out too. When he went down to the site, which is just a few blocks from the Seaside Public Works office on Olympia Avenue, he saw Comcast markings on the severed line, so he called the internet service provider.
It took about 12 hours before thousands of Seaside and Salinas residents got their internet back. Joan Hammel, a Comcast spokesperson, says upwards of 5,000 customers were impacted by the outage, and Comcast was “still investigating” the incident.
As to why such a critical piece of infrastructure would be under a vacant lot with no markings, and that just recently was home to crumbling foundations, Fortune can’t say. Nor does he know how things will shake out in terms of who has to pay for the fix – it’s the first time he’s dealt with an issue like this.
The work Seaside’s crew was doing was being carried out after the City Council, on Jan. 19, approved converting the property into a parking lot to support housing developments nearby and to provide parking for nearby businesses along Del Monte, which have no curbside parking due to a bike lane.
It's not just internet that went out. Comcast cable TV was out, too. So we we were without TV all day. But we had internet, because we get that from AT&T. And that is why we will never bundle TV and internet services from a single company.
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