Voltage from power line, lightning pointed to as cause of internet outage

Online classes were cancelled and many businesses were impacted across Whidbey and Fidalgo islands Monday when Comcast internet went out.

Nick McDonald, a spokesman for Comcast, explained in an email that “voltage from high-power transmission lines melted some fiber near the Swinomish Reservation resulting in a loss of all television, high-speed Internet and telephone services.” An insulator failed on the transmission line, he said.

But Jarrett Tomalin, a Puget Sound Energy spokesperson, said the outage “was due to a lightning strike that hit the pole, and ultimately damaged the communications equipment.”

Comcast services weren’t the only ones affected by the outage.

Cell phone providers had worked with Comcast to carry information between its cell sites and core network on the fiber lines, according to a Verizon spokesperson. As a result, the melted fiber caused the loss or degradation of cell service.

The outage started just after 12 a.m. Monday. Service was completely restored to all customers at 3:15 Tuesday morning.

Online classes were cancelled for students doing distance learning in all three Whidbey school districts.

In Oak Harbor, in-person classes on the hybrid rotational schedule and the “soft start” at Oak Harbor Intermediate was able to continue as planned. Teachers weren’t able to have live classes online, but thy were able to continue with asynchronous lessons, according to a schools spokesperson. Students were able to access lessons and assignments once the internet service returned.

Reports that the outage impacted communities along the Interstate 5 corridor were inaccurate, according to Comcast.

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