LIHUE — An undersea fiber optic cable between Kauai and Oahu malfunctioned Sunday evening and left most of the island’s residents without internet, cable TV or phone service.
The problem was fixed about 7:30 p.m. Monday, a Spectrum spokesperson said. But reception was still spotty as images glitched in and out.
The outage lasted about 24 hours. Representatives with Hawaiian Telcom and Spectrum said engineers had been making progress toward addressing the problem, but internet outages and slow internet service continued through Monday evening.
Some took the loss of internet for a day in stride.
Fernando Guillermo drove in from Eleele Monday morning to see why his Netflix show had been interrupted the night before and was glad to learn it wasn’t his fault.
“It went out last night at like 8:30,” he said. “I was thinking, like, did I pay or what?”
Eric Potter owns Pacific Concrete Works, just around the corner from the Spectrum office. He said he tried to call, but the office phone didn’t work, so he decided to walk over and find out what was going on. When asked how he planned to run his business without internet, he shrugged and laughed and said, “Shut down. Good day to go to Polihale, I guess.”
The cable is co-owned by Hawaiian Telcom and CenturyLink, which share the fiber optics line with Spectrum, meaning the malfunction affects the two companies responsible for providing internet and phone service to virtually all of the island’s residents.
Hawaiian Telcom customers were not entirely out of luck though. Sunday night, the company had transferred its traffic to a backup fiber optic line, according to a spokesperson, who said Hawaiian Telcom’s internet service was still “degraded” but wasn’t down entirely.
At around 4 p.m., Ann Nishida Fry, senior manager of corporate communications for Hawaiian Telcom, sent an update via email, saying, “our team continues to work on increasing the capacity on another fiber cable, which should relieve the internet congestion.”
According to Fry’s email, the fiber infrastructure was already in place, and that engineers were working to get the equipment “properly configured.” She promised that “customers will start seeing some relief” once the work is finished but could not provide a firm timeline.
The spokesperson’s email said “Spectrum services are being restored on Kauai and we hope to restore all services overnight,” but provided no further details about the nature of the problem or the steps taken to repair the cable.
Prior explanations of the outage from Spectrum said only that damage to a “third-party carrier’s network fiber” was “impacting Spectrum services on Kauai” and that the company’s engineering team had “engaged that carrier and is working with them to restore service.”
The Spectrum office in Lihue was busy Monday morning, as people from all over the island showed up to figure out why their internet and TV weren’t working. Customer service representatives were left to tell each new arrival that there was an islandwide outage and their technicians were working on it, an explanation which, more often than not, only prompted more questions.
One woman, who came in to pay her cable bill angrily told one employee, “I hate having to do payment, I don’t have TV!”
Next to her, another woman attempted to cancel her internet service, only to find that Spectrum’s system affected by the outage just like everyone else on the island. Basically, she couldn’t turn off her internet because her internet company’s internet was off. The irony did not seem to amuse her.
North Shore resident Kresta Kay owns two businesses that heavily rely on the internet and found herself unable to do much more than wait until the outage was over.
“Until it comes back up I won’t be able to upload photos for clients to purchase,” she said Monday. “Some will understand, but I’ll lose some business. I can’t do any online consulting for my other business, and I can’t do any of the billing I usually do on Mondays. I can’t access my bank accounts online either, so everything’s coming to a standstill right now.”
“I’m from California where they’re fleeing wildfires and have power outages, so really, from that perspective, it’s not that bad,” she added. “My dog Buddy is going to be really happy, he’s getting a few extra walks.”
Editor’s note: This story has been edited to correct some errors.