ARLINGTON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ADVISORY COMMISSION
7:30 pm, Wednesday, December 19, 2012
3rd Floor Conference Room CHP 311
Courthouse Plaza (2100 Clarendon Blvd.)
Chair: Joe Pelton
Vice Chair: Frank Jazzo
Jenny Shu Ho
Sal D’Itri Martha Moore
Members Not Present:
County Staff: Rob Billingsley, Cable Administrator
Jack Belcher, CIO
Members of the Public: Mary Fantuccio, AIM Policy Committee
Cable Company Representatives: Linc Janus, Verizon (by teleconference)
1. Meeting called to order by Joe Pelton, ITAC Chair
7:30 pm; Quorum Present
2. Public Comment
3. Approval of Minutes from Previous Meeting and Agenda: Minutes of October, 2012 and November 2012 meetings were approved by consensus.
4. Administrative Issues:
• The ITAC is at full membership.
• The next and first meeting of ITAC for 2011 will occur in the Courthouse Plaza building on January 30, 2012 at 7:30 pm at a place to be determined.
• Rich Dooley, who heads the education program for the long term Energy Plan for Arlington County will present the current status of the Community Energy Plan at the next ITAC meeting. Jack Belcher, CIO will also provide a briefing on potential applications of ConnectArlington.
• Approved Minutes and Agendas of the ITAC continue to be added to the ITAC website, and the Cable Administration site is in the process of being improved with a new complaint form underdevelopment. It will more dynamically change as users enter information depending on the responses of the user.
• The documented results of the recent Broadband Focus Groups are currently under internal review, and may be publicly available within a few weeks, to include distribution via the Cable Administration Website and to the ITAC / Education joint working group. Member Larry Mayer will take responsibility for getting the report distributed to the PLACE initiative (Public Leadership and Community Engagement)
• The Chair is still hopeful that a joint commission between the ITAC and one representing the interests of Arlington Public Schools could be re-established, and will discuss with the CIO and Cable Administrator.
5. Legislative Updates:
Vice Chair, Frank Jazzo, provided the following information:
• The FCC announced that it will hold field hearings in the coming months to examine challenges to the nation’s communications networks in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, as well as other natural disasters and other times of crisis. A full schedule of the public hearings will be released in the near future.
• In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Verizon is replacing older copper infrastructure hit by Sandy with fiber, which the company said is more resilient to sea water. The push for fiber will bring IP transition issues regarding the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to the forefront. Verizon’s CEO indicated that it is trying to roll as many services off of copper and onto FiOS, with a target of 200,000 customers migrating off of copper in the coming year.
• Ritron, Inc. has filed a Petition with the FCC to indefinitely delay implementation of the narrowbanding requirement for licensees in the 150-174 and 450-512 MHz bands past the current 1/1/13 deadline because standards for 6.25 kHz technology are not yet in place.
• NCTA and CEA have announced a voluntary agreement on set-top energy conservation that they say will result in $1.5 billion in residential energy savings. Starting 1/1/13, 90% of new set-top boxes will meet EPA Energy Star 3.0 levels, which the EPA says makes those boxes 45% more efficient than boxes that don’t meet the standards. A “deep sleep” mode is also being tested for next generation set-tops.
• The nation’s four largest wireless carriers have agreed to accelerate the availability of text-to-911, with a commitment to nationwide availability by 5/15/14. The FCC also adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) seeking comment on whether the 5/15/14 timeframe is achievable for all carriers and third-party messaging providers.
• The FirstNet Board wants to find a way to incorporate into the national first responders’ network (FirstNet) the work that has already been done so far by local and state government entities that have already invested in putting together local networks.
6. Cable Administrator’s Report (Mr. Billingsley)
• The County continues to work with Comcast on the renewal of the Comcast franchise agreement. There is some progress but it is mostly in an information gathering mode.
• The Cable Administrator provided a report of cable service calls made and reported by the companies stated in quarterly statistics for both Verizon and Comcast for the July-September quarters between 2009 and 2012. The pattern of service calls for those quarters during that timeframe wavered around a ratio of 1 service visit per 11 customers for Comcast and a ratio of about half that for Verizon. This indicates that Verizon is making fewer service calls per user. This may possibly be due to fewer problem complaints requiring a service visit or more complaints resolved by phone calls, and then do not require service visits.
• The Chair requested an update on the letter that had been transmitted on November 20, 2012 to Verizon’s President of the Potomac Area, Tony Lewis, concerning several issues listed in an ITAC Resolution: The Derecho outages, other crisis responses, lack of a local service center in Arlington, deployment milestones, and lack of having a local Verizon representative attend monthly ITAC meetings. Linc Janus stated that the letter and its requests are being reviewed and that ITAC should expect a response before the end of this year (2012) or within 60 days. The Chair indicated that he had mentioned these issues to Jay Fisette who said he may be reaching out to Verizon’s local government affairs representative to obtain a response. The issue of battery backup at customer sites was discussed, and Janus’ response was that customers can obtain new batteries when the old ones expire. The Chair indicated that the customers are not aware of their responsibility to maintain the batteries. Janus stated that the Verizon website has information about the batteries. There is a one year warranty on the batteries, and after that the customer must purchase a replacement, and the Verizon Support website provides the necessary information to replace the battery.
• Martha Moore also described another problem regarding a required monthly emergency message that interrupts On Demand programs, multiple times in one week, and requires the customer to start the program over again. The Chair requested a written response to that issue. Janus promised to contact the responsible technical staff to investigate the problem.
• The Cable Administrator also responded to a previous question about 911 cell phone calls in some areas of the County being routed to the District of Columbia call center. This can result in some delay as the DC center refers the call to the Arlington County emergency call center. This is not a carrier problem, but a technical one where the location of the cell tower that is routing the call passes the call signal to the nearest cell available to be further forwarded to the nearest tower to pass the call along. While there may be nothing to be done about the technical issue, there may a way to ask DC to reduce the time it takes to forward the call to the Arlington 911 call center. Jack Brown, Office of Emergency Management Director, would be the best person to contact regarding this issue.
7. Briefing on ConnectArlington Status and Telecommunications Master Plan
• The CIO, Jack Belcher, stated the Board approved the contract to proceed with the installation of the Public Safety Radio Ring that links all the microwave repeater towers in the County by fiber.
• The ConnectArlington Stage 1 of last mile connections to County and Arlington Public School buildings will begin in January with notices going to affected neighborhood association areas. Staff have offered to meet with the associations to discuss specifics about the installations and the schedule.
• With the support of the County Manager, DTS is reaching out to third party agencies and organizations (such as Arlington Independent Media, WETA/PBS NewsHour, Virginia Tech, NSF, etc.) who might be interested in getting connected to the last mile of ConnectArlington. The Assistant Superintendent for Instruction has also agreed to meet with staff to discuss potential applications and content that would be useful for APS. Other meetings are ongoing with the Virginia Hospital Center for interconnecting local residents and doctors for medical record access. Other opportunities include using ConnectArlington nodes as hotspots for public WiFi access.
• The ITAC had extended discussion of additional applications for the public benefit using ConnectArlington.
8. ITAC Annual Report
• The Chair circulated a draft for an annual report of Commission activities and DTS added a summary of accomplishments under the headings of Sustainability, Workforce Empowerment, and Extending Customer Service Delivery, as an attachment to the report which will be given to the County Board. Comments on the circulated draft were requested of all members prior to the December meeting of the ITAC.
• The Chair also made minor corrections, and added a comment about re-establishing a joint committee for ITAC/Education matters. He also requested that DTS add comments concerning Telework, or about the “Mobile Worker” under the Workforce Empowerment heading for DTS accomplishments.
November 20, 2012
Tony Lewis, President
Verizon Communications, Potomac Area
600 E. Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Monica F. Azare
VP & Deputy General Counsel – Video and Advocacy
One Verizon Way, VC54S409
Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
Dear Mr. Lewis:
The Arlington County Information Technology Advisory Commission (ITAC) is an
advisory group to the Arlington County Board. As such, ITAC reviews citizens’
complaints concerning providers of cable television services, and seeks to respond to
issues expressed regarding Internet, telecommunications and information services.
In response to concerns expressed by Arlington County residents, the ITAC unanimously adopted the attached resolution.
Joseph N. Pelton
1 Attachment Resolution, dated November 15 2012
cc: Mary Hynes, Chair, Arlington County Board
Jay Fisette, Member, Arlington County Board
Barbara Donallen, Arlington County Manager
Jack Belcher and Rob Billingsley, Department of Technology Services
Jack Brown, Director 911 Emergency Communications Services
Members of Arlington County IT Advisory Commission
Chris Essig, Chair, Arlington Emergency Preparedness Commission
James Schroll, President, Arlington County Civic Federation
Resolution Unanimously Adopted by the Information Technology Advisory Commission for Arlington County, Virginia — November 15, 2012
The Information Technology Advisory Commission (ITAC) is quite concerned by a pattern of unresponsiveness from Verizon exhibited over the past year. The 911 outage and communications failures by Verizon during the “derecho” storm event in June of 2012 brought into sharp relief the human consequences of a lack of responsiveness and performance by Verizon. Throughout 2012 the Corporation has responded slowly to requests for information, declined to attend Commission meetings, and has failed to resolve critical issues surfaced by Arlington County personnel and the IT Advisory Commission. As a result, ITAC passed the following resolution: ITAC requests, on an urgent basis, a high level meeting with Verizon and Arlington officials to see if the shortcomings and performance issues can be resolved.
Service Outages: The June 2012 failures brought to light two separate but related concerns. First, Verizon did not have in place and fully tested the requisite contingency capability to provide power to the 911 system, a problem that affected not just Arlington but the entire region. Second, even after service at the 911 center had notionally been restored, a substantial number of people in the community did not have telephone service restored for days and Arlington County itself suffered a major outage in telephone and IT services. Without phone service these members of the community were unable to reach the 911 service. Moreover, despite repeated requests, Arlington officials were unable to obtain authoritative information on the outages and when service might be fully restored. Not only did this endanger residents but it also required the County to redirect staff from other emergency duties to reach out to residents door to door. Verizon’s failure to maintain the service and its lack of response during this crisis deeply concerns the Commission. Our County’s first duty is to provide for public safety and, to do so reliably. Our residents must have the ability to contact police, fire or health emergency assistance on a reliable basis.
We understand that Arlington County is not Verizon’s main profit center but we remember a time when Verizon was committed to our community and was interested in building a long-term partnership to ensure the safety of our residents and to deliver quality communications to the County.
Looking ahead the IT Advisory Commission (ITAC) is concerned at multiple levels. First, and foremost the 911 emergency services cannot be out of service for extended periods of time. Second, the failure on the part of Verizon to monitor this service and test critical equipment at appropriate intervals has damaged the corporation’s reputation as a trusted provider of critical emergency services. Third, other ongoing concerns, as spelled out below, all combine to create serious reservations about communication resiliency and viability in the future. If Verizon is unreliable in addressing 911 services how can the Commission be assured that Verizon will respond appropriately in future emergencies or to other less critical but still important communication matters .In short we are noting on the record that Verizon has performance and service issues compounded by communications deficiencies.
Support Level In Case of Terrorist Attack: In addition to weather-related crises there are other emergencies where Arlington personnel need to know the communication infrastructure will function appropriately. Arlington has already endured one of the nation’s gravest terrorist attacks and it is imperative that Arlington County personnel be confident of our communication providers. At the moment Verizon is viewed as less than a reliable partner in a crisis.
Deteriorating Service Center Access: Arlington resident access to Verizon Service Centers has continued to deteriorate as more and more of the Verizon centers are closed. Arlington citizens now have to travel distances on the order of 15 to 20 miles to visit such a center. Again this seems to show a pattern of service deterioration.
Franchise Milestones for County and School Connections and FiOS Deployment: We feel there is a need to review with Verizon its deployment of fiber optic cable throughout the Arlington community, the rate of connection of FiOS at County and School locations as specified in the Franchise agreement, and the perceived inadequacy of battery power supply to sustain land line service on FiOS connections during electrical power outages. (This latter issue was exposed during the recent Hurricane Sandy extreme weather conditions.)
Inadequacy of Representation and Direct Communications with Verizon: In the past Verizon provided direct and responsive representation at Commission Meetings and when there were problems we knew where to go for answers. Comcast has provided quality representation at our monthly meetings and we find it difficult to understand why a Corporation of Verizon’s size and economic interest in Arlington is not able to restore quality representation.
In short, the Commission has found it challenging to discuss and to resolve issues with Verizon. Mechanisms to ensure a viable working relationship between Arlington County and Verizon do not appear to be working. We note Verizon’s attempt to be more responsive to County Staff during Hurricane Sandy and efforts toward keeping the community and County informed, but remain concerned that communications and representation still need substantial improvement in a number of areas.
We close by noting that the above issues and the desire to resolve them are not intended to be quarrelsome, but rather to allow Verizon to improve its commercial standing and reputation in the Arlington Community which we believe will assist you to develop or retain business in the future. We are thus requesting a meeting as soon as possible to discuss all of the points raised in this letter:
• First, it would be taken as a gesture of good faith, if Verizon were to commission on a voluntary basis an independent audit that provides the County with evidence that the 911 service for Arlington County, Virginia has sufficient power redundancy and overall resilience.
• Second, we would appreciate a written report from Verizon, to the Arlington County Board and the Arlington County Manager within 60 days that addresses the other issues referenced above. This would allow time for a meeting to be held with Verizon to review our concerns and for we hope for Verizon to be able to undertake any response or remedial action that may be appropriate.
• Third, regular and effective participation (i.e. attendance in person) at the monthly Information Technology Advisory Commission meetings. This would entail a Verizon representative who is able to carry issues back to Verizon and monitor the issues until there is satisfactory resolution and also keep the Commission well informed of relevant developments at Verizon. Comcast has managed to fulfill this request for representation at ITAC meetings for some years.
• Fourth, the designation by Verizon of a point of contact at a senior level when major issues, such as those enumerated above, arise.