News

Recent internet outage sparks demand for local ISP alternatives

'Disgruntled' Pleasanton residents seek to improve city's internet infrastructure

Public interest in building a fiber optic network throughout the city has increased recently, after a Comcast outage last month left several hundred homes in Pleasanton without internet service for much of a day.

With more people working and studying from home these days, the movement for improving the city's network infrastructure is gaining momentum among residents.

A new group on NextDoor called "Improving Pleasanton's Internet" has more than 50 members and continues to grow while also starting conversations about the issue with city leaders, group leader Evan Miller told the Weekly.

"There's been a shift towards working from home that the pandemic has massively accelerated, so the importance of home internet is far more than it was in 2020," Miller said.

Internet service providers "are one of those areas where everyone's generally quite disgruntled."

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support PleasantonWeekly.com for as little as $5/month.

Join

"Most people aren't technical enough to understand what their options are and what to ask for," Miller said. "We're hoping to bring together more technical people who can navigate all this stuff and all the residents who care about it but don't know what to do next."

Earlier this year, the city's Economic Vitality Committee recommendation to prioritize creating a fiber network and combine it with large-scale projects like the Stoneridge Mall Framework was scrapped.

According to the committee's Feb. 18 meeting minutes, staff said "fiber planning is dependent on service providers and that city staff in engineering and other departments was already coordinating applications for infrastructure upgrades, such that it would be appropriate to consider removing this priority from the recommendations."

Miller said anything built "would certainly be piecemeal, anything we do is going to be incremental improvements," but that ultimately the group is interested in "discovering if it's feasible to build and operate our own municipal fiber network."

"The vast majority of (ISPs) are not actually providing direct internet connectivity to the home," Miller said. "That could be part of the picture, the city could develop parts of core infrastructure and maybe entice other ISPs to come in and work with the last-mile bits."

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

"Apartment buildings and other more dense living situations are good targets because you only need to dig a single line to get to dozens of homes," he added.

During a special meeting and workshop for the city's draft work plan last Wednesday, City Councilmember Jack Balch said, "There's frustration that providers have a proprietary network and they don't want to make it public with the cities from what we understand."

"I think we need to think of it in a different paradigm, which is the challenge of understanding our public right-of-way so that we can continue to provide opportunity for high-speed internet throughout our community," Balch said.

City Manager Nelson Fialho said Balch's comment "about proprietary information not being shared with the city is spot-on," and explained the city has "tried to get that information and we just can't."

State and federal laws "don't give us the ability to have that information, even though they're using our public right-of-way," and even though the city has about 10 active permits for installing fiber over the past year, Fialho said ISPs are "fairly tightlipped about what they're putting in."

However, "there's a lot of fiber being installed currently," he added, though "it may not solve the alternative to Comcast."

In one instance, Verizon put in 23 miles of fiber line and managed right-of-way to ensure the city knows where the infrastructure is located and recorded in the Dig Alert system, while another nine miles of empty conduit mostly laid in a business park is available for private utilities to use to expand fiber throughout the park.

The city is looking to "engage in some ideas and explore some possibilities," Fialho said. "We don't know that it's a fiber master plan; we think it's more of a 'what are the options that we can really get behind and support, and maybe someday potentially fund'. But I don't think it requires the effort that a fiber master plan calls for."

Miller told the council that "this isn't about any particular outage. Developing a more robust backbone for the city has all sorts of benefits in terms of stability and diversity of choice, and making events like this possible, where we're all talking with each other."

Former council member Becky Dennis -- also a member of Improving Pleasanton's Internet -- said the recent outage "uncovered an extraordinary amount of interest in having a robust broadband service for the city."

"A lot of people depend on that service and I think probably every resident in the city has the interest," Dennis said. "A master plan is not just figuring out how to serve the Stoneridge Drive Specific Plan. It shouldn't just be driven by Comcast or broadband providers, in my opinion."

To that end, Dennis has been helping the group navigate some of their interactions with the city and said she's "going to urge people not to give up their platform, because when the City Council has identified something as a priority, that gives the public more access and gives staff more time to spend on it."

"We have master plans for everything … I don't understand why we should not have a fiber master plan," Dennis added.

Comcast did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lengthy April 16 outage as well as the larger issues raised by the resident group.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow PleasantonWeekly.com and the Pleasanton Weekly on Twitter @pleasantonnews, Facebook and on Instagram @pleasantonweekly for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Recent internet outage sparks demand for local ISP alternatives

'Disgruntled' Pleasanton residents seek to improve city's internet infrastructure

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Sun, May 2, 2021, 10:48 am

Public interest in building a fiber optic network throughout the city has increased recently, after a Comcast outage last month left several hundred homes in Pleasanton without internet service for much of a day.

With more people working and studying from home these days, the movement for improving the city's network infrastructure is gaining momentum among residents.

A new group on NextDoor called "Improving Pleasanton's Internet" has more than 50 members and continues to grow while also starting conversations about the issue with city leaders, group leader Evan Miller told the Weekly.

"There's been a shift towards working from home that the pandemic has massively accelerated, so the importance of home internet is far more than it was in 2020," Miller said.

Internet service providers "are one of those areas where everyone's generally quite disgruntled."

"Most people aren't technical enough to understand what their options are and what to ask for," Miller said. "We're hoping to bring together more technical people who can navigate all this stuff and all the residents who care about it but don't know what to do next."

Earlier this year, the city's Economic Vitality Committee recommendation to prioritize creating a fiber network and combine it with large-scale projects like the Stoneridge Mall Framework was scrapped.

According to the committee's Feb. 18 meeting minutes, staff said "fiber planning is dependent on service providers and that city staff in engineering and other departments was already coordinating applications for infrastructure upgrades, such that it would be appropriate to consider removing this priority from the recommendations."

Miller said anything built "would certainly be piecemeal, anything we do is going to be incremental improvements," but that ultimately the group is interested in "discovering if it's feasible to build and operate our own municipal fiber network."

"The vast majority of (ISPs) are not actually providing direct internet connectivity to the home," Miller said. "That could be part of the picture, the city could develop parts of core infrastructure and maybe entice other ISPs to come in and work with the last-mile bits."

"Apartment buildings and other more dense living situations are good targets because you only need to dig a single line to get to dozens of homes," he added.

During a special meeting and workshop for the city's draft work plan last Wednesday, City Councilmember Jack Balch said, "There's frustration that providers have a proprietary network and they don't want to make it public with the cities from what we understand."

"I think we need to think of it in a different paradigm, which is the challenge of understanding our public right-of-way so that we can continue to provide opportunity for high-speed internet throughout our community," Balch said.

City Manager Nelson Fialho said Balch's comment "about proprietary information not being shared with the city is spot-on," and explained the city has "tried to get that information and we just can't."

State and federal laws "don't give us the ability to have that information, even though they're using our public right-of-way," and even though the city has about 10 active permits for installing fiber over the past year, Fialho said ISPs are "fairly tightlipped about what they're putting in."

However, "there's a lot of fiber being installed currently," he added, though "it may not solve the alternative to Comcast."

In one instance, Verizon put in 23 miles of fiber line and managed right-of-way to ensure the city knows where the infrastructure is located and recorded in the Dig Alert system, while another nine miles of empty conduit mostly laid in a business park is available for private utilities to use to expand fiber throughout the park.

The city is looking to "engage in some ideas and explore some possibilities," Fialho said. "We don't know that it's a fiber master plan; we think it's more of a 'what are the options that we can really get behind and support, and maybe someday potentially fund'. But I don't think it requires the effort that a fiber master plan calls for."

Miller told the council that "this isn't about any particular outage. Developing a more robust backbone for the city has all sorts of benefits in terms of stability and diversity of choice, and making events like this possible, where we're all talking with each other."

Former council member Becky Dennis -- also a member of Improving Pleasanton's Internet -- said the recent outage "uncovered an extraordinary amount of interest in having a robust broadband service for the city."

"A lot of people depend on that service and I think probably every resident in the city has the interest," Dennis said. "A master plan is not just figuring out how to serve the Stoneridge Drive Specific Plan. It shouldn't just be driven by Comcast or broadband providers, in my opinion."

To that end, Dennis has been helping the group navigate some of their interactions with the city and said she's "going to urge people not to give up their platform, because when the City Council has identified something as a priority, that gives the public more access and gives staff more time to spend on it."

"We have master plans for everything … I don't understand why we should not have a fiber master plan," Dennis added.

Comcast did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lengthy April 16 outage as well as the larger issues raised by the resident group.

Comments

Becky Dennis
Registered user
Foxborough Estates
on May 3, 2021 at 9:55 am
Becky Dennis, Foxborough Estates
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 9:55 am

Of course Comcast didn’t respond because...
Web Link


Dave
Registered user
Highland Oaks
on May 3, 2021 at 9:56 am
Dave, Highland Oaks
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 9:56 am

Being without Internet is difficult.

However, understand that when the ISPs setup networking in our neighborhoods the current use case was not the designed intended use case. In its infancy, the internet was for Web Browsing, communications tools like EMAIL or FTP etc.

It was not designed for, or intended to be used for:

As a replacement for your office space (Zoom, Webex and Teams Meetings).
Stream Everything Video Service
Stream Everything Music Service
Distance learning to connect teachers with students
An have 20 devices per household connecting (TV, Phones, Doorbells, Video Cameras, Refrigerators, Toasters Etc.)

If we all began using water at the rate that we started using unlimited home broadband, we would be dry by now.

I think the ISP’s are doing a pretty good job of managing demand.
Planning to wire a Fibre Network is a good idea.

Dave


pja
Registered user
Birdland
on May 3, 2021 at 10:44 am
pja, Birdland
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 10:44 am

In addition to improving internet, can the city also work with the mobile carriers to add towers to improve cell service? We have had AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon over the years and all have 1 bar in Birdland. The corner of Hopyard and Valley is a dead zone for all 3 carriers. This has been a well-known issue forever in Ptown and is actually a safety concern when kids walking home from school don't have service, etc. Inevitably, we will have internet outages and don't have the ability to tether our cell to our laptops as a back-up for work or school. A simple solution is to put a cell tower in the middle of the sports park to cover all these dead zones! City zoning managers please help fix this!


chas
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on May 4, 2021 at 7:55 am
chas, Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 7:55 am

@pja A tower in the middle of the Sports Park??? Really?
That will never happen.
And it shouldn't!!


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 4, 2021 at 8:56 am
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 8:56 am

@pja,

Totally agree. Cell coverage around Pleasanton is terrible.

@chas,

Why on earth not have a tower or at least wifi hotspots (or both) at the sports park? That is a known dead zone.


Mr. Julius
Registered user
Downtown
8 hours ago
Mr. Julius, Downtown
Registered user
8 hours ago

Cell towers can be disguised to look like a tree. The first versions weren't too attractive, hopefully they've improved.


Anti racist
Registered user
Ruby Hill
1 hour ago
Anti racist, Ruby Hill
Registered user
1 hour ago

I’m always amused when the people who shout, we need better internet! cross paths with the people who shout, no cell towers in my neighborhood! It’s especially amusing when the same person shouts both of those things. So who should the carriers listen to? And then there are still others shouting, we need a different internet provider company to choose from! because adding more choices adds more infrastructure (towers, lines, etc.)


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.