Arlington, VA

This year, half of all calls to your mobile phone could be robocalls, according to predictions by call protection company First Orion. And ARLnow wants to know: have you noticed more robocalls to your phone?

There were 27.2 million robocalls placed to 703-area-code numbers in March, per call tracker YouMail, and 13.2 million calls to 571 numbers.

That’s up from 17.2 million robocalls to 703 numbers in March of last year, and 8.5 million calls to 571 numbers.

One Arlington resident who’s definitely getting spammed with robocalls is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver set up a robocall system to call Pai every 90 minutes and leave a voicemail urging him to take action to reduce robocalls.

First Orion’s prediction that robocalls will make up half of all cellphone calls was based on an analysis of 50 million calls which showed an increase from 3.7 percent of cellphone calls were robocalls in 2017 to 29.2 percent in 2018.

It may be a reason why one analysis of monthly calls by caller ID provider Hiya found people now only pick up their phone about half the time it rings.

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If you ever wanted to refresh your Twitter timeline or text a selfie while on a Metro train under the Potomac River between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, that is now a viable option.

Metro announced Wednesday afternoon that it and the four major wireless carriers had completed wiring the tunnels between Rosslyn and Metro Center and between Rosslyn and Ballston for mobile voice and data service. Also online: a stretch of Green Line tunnel between College Park and Fort Totten.

The three tunnel segments that are now mobile-ready are in addition to six other tunnel segments that are already online in D.C. and Maryland, as part of Metro’s effort to add wireless service for all of its 100 miles of tunnel track. The effort, which will also eventually wire the Blue and Yellow line tunnel between the Pentagon and National Airport, is expected to wrap up by mid-2020.

More from a WMATA press release:

Today Metro and the nation’s leading wireless carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless announced that more than half of Metro’s tunnels are now wired for cellular and data service. The milestone was accompanied by the formal announcement of three new tunnel segments coming online as “wireless ready.”

The three new “wireless ready” tunnel segments announced today are:

  • Orange Line and Silver Line between Ballston and Rosslyn (5.6 track miles)
  • Blue Line, Orange Line and Silver Line between Rosslyn and Metro Center (4.8 track miles)
  • Green Line between College Park and Fort Totten (7.4 track miles)

The new tunnel segments will undergo ongoing testing and optimization by the wireless carriers to address any performance issues and ensure reliable service for customers.

Cellular service is currently available in all Metro stations and on portions of all six Metrorail lines, including most of Downtown DC. Just over 50 of Metro’s 100 miles of tunnel track have been wired for the new system, with new underground segments coming online as the work is completed. Cellular service in all tunnel segments is expected by mid-2020.

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Arlington is gearing up to embrace the arrival of the next generation of cell network technology, though some observers worry county officials aren’t acting fast enough to expand access to 5G in the area.

Telecom companies are slowly, but surely moving to deploy equipment for 5G, the fifth generation of network tech, in communities around the country, in order to realize the new network’s promise to drastically increase mobile internet speeds and enable all manner of new innovations, from driverless cars to virtual reality video games.

Workers typically have to attach antennas and other equipment to street poles or traffic signals as part of that process, meaning that local governments (and, often, concerned neighbors) can have a say in how companies handle the installation.

While some utility companies are working directly with network providers to allow 5G tech on street lights, many localities are increasingly moving to craft zoning regulations to allow telcos access to government-owned street poles. Arlington hasn’t gone quite that far, but the county is at least dipping its toe in the water with 5G tech.

After state legislators passed a new law last April, the county began allowing companies to attach “small cell facilities” on privately owned structures in the public right-of-way. Even more recently, Arlington’s begun accepting applications for companies looking to attach the equipment to “cobra-style street lights” — smaller poles named for their snake-shaped heads — in public areas, according to Department of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin.

Golkin expects the change “will allow for deployment of 5G infrastructure in dense areas throughout the county,” and Arlington leaders see the move as an incremental step for the county to take to meet the demands of the telecom industry.

“We’re trying not to be a hindrance to this, while still balancing community concerns,” said County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “Before, this sort of thing required a County Board review and a long process. Now, within a couple of months, it can get approved administratively. Whenever a carrier company is looking to deploy small towers anywhere, this is a predictable and affordable way to get it done.”

Even still, the change doesn’t seem drastic enough to Jonathan Kinney, an attorney at the Arlington firm Bean, Kinney and Korman, who works with developers and business owners on land use and zoning matters.

He laments that the county still won’t allow 5G tech on larger, 30-foot-high poles in urban neighborhoods along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, which he sees as a key step for the county to achieve full 5G coverage in its most populous areas.

“My point has always been that 5G is going to come here, but it really doesn’t do us any good as a community to act otherwise,” Kinney said. “With all the defense contractors and cybersecurity companies here, we shouldn’t be one of the last communities to do this. We should be one of the first.”

Kinney believes the county’s failure to act more aggressively on 5G tech will hamstring its chances to lure all manner of big companies to the area, most notably Amazon. He points out that the company singled out access to advanced network tech in its list of requirements for picking a second headquarters, and he feels the county just hasn’t lived up to the pace set by other HQ2 contenders like those in Texas or California.

“It just seems like this is low hanging fruit, this is something we could do pretty easily,” Kinney said. “But there’s not any strong advocate on the County Board pushing it forward… it just needs a little bit of leadership.”

Dorsey, however, argues that the Board has indeed tried to provide that leadership, and claims that 5G is “not something where we think we’re behind at all.” He says the county “just hasn’t had much unsolicited interest [from the private sector] that’s evolved beyond exploration and discussion at this point,” but that the county has been responsive when called upon.

For instance, Golkin notes that the county has “approved several permits over the last year for vendors to attach small wireless facilities to private structures.” That includes Verizon, who worked with some county apartment owners to install some 5G equipment on several large buildings to test out the tech in a residential setting.

Verizon spokesman John O’Malley says the test “was part of a series of trials” the company did in 11 large localities over the course of 2017. The company’s since removed that equipment, and moved on to testing 5G broadband service in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Dorsey says the county “would be open to exploring” additional partnerships with telecom companies moving forward. He suggested that, as the technology evolves, Arlington could agree to buy a new round of street lights that already have 5G equipment installed on them, instead of retrofitting it to existing poles.

“I would argue that we’re an ideal community for that kind of partnership, because we’re so small and so dense,” Dorsey said. “We are well aware that, if the potential of all the lab tests are realized, we’re talking about an incredible expansion of productivity, which will be incredible for our businesses.”

Yet Kinney cautions that Arlington’s ability to experiment with 5G could soon be constrained by new regulations the Federal Communications Commission is mulling, which would require states and localities to quickly approve 5G deployments, eliminating some discretion in setting personalized standards.

Those changes may be a ways off yet from going into effect, but Kinney notes that Arlington’s lengthy public engagement process for any policy change means the county can’t afford to wait much longer.

“It could take a year to get through the whole process,” Kinney said. “But they could make the legal changes pretty quickly and then come up with the specific policy, and just move it along… We just need to start now.”

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Morning Notes

New Weapon in Battle Against Opioid Addiction — “Arlington County has taken a proactive measure in the fight against prescription drug abuse by installing three permanent drug-take back boxes. The public can now safely and securely dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 day a year. This disposal service is free and anonymous with no questions asked.” [Arlington County]

Lack of 5G Could Hurt Amazon Bid — Arlington’s lack of 5G wireless service could hurt it in the eyes of Amazon as the online giant considers the county for its second headquarters, says a letter to the editor writer. The county should have more actively adjusted policy and lobbied carriers for 5G, the writer suggests. [InsideNova]

Woman Arrested After Victoria’s Secret Assault — “A D.C. woman was arrested for attacking two employees at a Victoria’s Secret in Arlington after she says one of them followed her around the store, according to authorities.” [WJLA]

Average I-66 HOV Round Trip Cost — The average round trip cost for single occupant drivers on the I-66 Express Lanes, from their December opening to the end of April, was $12.72, according to new data. Some drivers have faced steeper tolls during “peak of the peak” times. [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani

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Arlington County will participate in what is being billed as the country’s first live multi-jurisdictional wireless emergency alert system test tomorrow (April 5) from 10-11 a.m.

Residents in participating jurisdictions will receive an alert on their cell phone “or other mobile devices,” according to a county press release. At least 20 jurisdictions, including D.C., College Park, Md., and Manassas, Va., are scheduled to simultaneously send out the test message.

The text, accompanied by a loud noise, will reportedly read as follows: “A test of the Arlington County Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action required.”

A back-up test date is scheduled for Monday (April 9) for the same time “if a real-world event impacts the [wireless emergency alert system] test on Thursday.”

The system is designed to send targeted emergency information to those in a specific area to a person’s mobile phone.

As the technology relies on carrier towers to relay messages within a “geo-targeted map,” those close to jurisdictions that are conducting the test may receive a message as well.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Absent from Short Bridge Park Plans — “While plans for the border-spanning park are underway on the Arlington side, one frustration expressed at the County Board was that Alexandria has no plans to develop its side of the park… ‘That’s a little disappointing,’ County Board member John Vihstadt said. ‘I am concerned we’re going to be spending significant amounts of money for improvements on the Alexandria side.'” [Arlington Connection]

Review of Columbia Pike’s BrickhausBrickhaus, which opened last year at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, is like a miniature, “year-round, indoor beer garden [that] serves German-inspired fare.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Commuting Satisfaction in Arlington — According to data from Arlington County’s Mobility Lab, Arlington residents commute to work by means other than driving alone 60 percent of the time. Those who walk or bike have the highest rate of satisfaction with their commute, while those who take a train have the lowest satisfaction rate. [Mobility Lab]

Fmr. Clarendon Restaurant Owners Like Falls Church — David and Rebecca Tax, the founders behind classic Clarendon restaurants like Big Belly Deli, Lazy Sundae, Clare and Don’s and Mexicali Blues, are happy with their decision to move Lazy Sundae and Clare and Don’s to Falls Church more than a decade ago. “Falls Church is a lot like what Clarendon was like in 1996 when we opened Lazy Sundae,” said David, while Rebecca remembered the Clarendon of the mid-to-late 90s as “more family oriented, fewer singles.” [Eater]

Mobile Phones Could Be Banned at Pentagon — A military review of personal electronics policies, ordered by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, could result in non-military cell phones being banned at the Pentagon. About 30,000 servicemembers, civilians and contractors work at the Pentagon. [Stars and Stripes]

Japanese Embassy Lauds New Arlington Decal — Via a tweet from the Embassy of Japan in D.C.: “As this year’s @CherryBlossFest nears, we’re excited to hear that the blooming cherry trees along the Potomac River will soon be displayed on windshields in Arlington County. Congratulations to @OConnellHS’s Schuyler Workmaster for winning @ArlingtonVA’s decal contest!” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Pedestrian crossing the street in Clarendon in front of traffic

Arcing Insulator at Rosslyn Metro — An electrical issue on the Metrorail tracks outside of the Rosslyn station caused delays on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines during this morning’s rush hour. The arcing insulator prompted single-tracking and a large fire department response. [WJLA]

Beyer to Shadow DCA Worker — Today, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is expected to “accompany contracted wheelchair agents to learn first-hand their role helping passengers with disabilities at Reagan National Airport.” The workers and their union, 32BJ SEIU, are fighting for a $15 per hour wage. Currently, they receive as little as $6 per hour plus “unreliable tips.”

Samsung Collecting Note 7 at DCA — Electronics manufacturer Samsung has set up a booth at Reagan National Airport to collect their now recalled and discontinued Galaxy Note 7 phones, which are banned from flights due to a propensity to randomly go up in flames. [Twitter]

I-395 HOT Lane Update — VDOT updated the Arlington County Board yesterday on its “managed HOV/toll lanes” project slated for I-395. County staff is currently studying traffic and noise impacts to Arlington and the project’s allocation of at least $15 million per year to transit along the corridor, which the county believes is insufficient. [Arlington County]

Tech Incubator Founder Moves to Arlington — Evan Burfield, the founder of D.C.-based tech incubator 1776, has moved to Arlington with his wife and one-year-old daughter. Burfield chose a $1.6 million home in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood outside of Crystal City, calling it “a great buy on an up-and-coming area.” 1776 has a location in Crystal City that Burfield said is performing well. [Washington Business Journal]

Police: Arlington Man Called Reporter the N-Word — An Arlington man, 21-year-old Brian Eybers, has been arrested in Charleston, South Carolina on disorderly conduct and drug-related charges. A local TV reporter in Charleston says Eybers called him the N-word and then stood in front of his news van, blocking it from leaving. [The State]

Interview with Poet Laureate — Northern Virginia Magazine recently interviewed Arlington’s new poet laureate, Katherine Young. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

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Sprint mobile phone customers may get a busy signal in Arlington and other parts of the D.C. region when they try to make an emergency call.

The Arlington Alerts system issued the following notice shortly after noon today.

Sprint cellular service is affected throughout the area. If you receive a busy signal when you call 9-1-1, you should attempt to text to 9-1-1, use a landline phone or use a cellphone covered by another provider.

The problem is also affecting Sprint customers in Fairfax County, the Washington Post reports.

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A 911 dispatcher in Arlington's Emergency Communications CenterFive and a half years after it was first proposed in Arlington, Text-to-911 capability is finally a reality.

The ability to send a text message to 911 launched today in Arlington. In a press release, officials encouraged those reporting an emergency to call instead of text, unless a disability or a safety risk prevents you from doing so.

From Arlington County:

Arlington County today launched Text to 9-1-1, making it possible to send a text message to our Emergency Communications Center if you can’t call 9-1-1.

“In an emergency, we always prefer that you call 9-1-1,” said Deputy County Manager for Public Safety James Schwartz. “But if you can’t call, you will now be able to text and get the help you need.”

Arlington joins other jurisdictions across the region and the nation who are adding Text to 9-1-1 to their emergency communications options, and reminding callers “call if you can, text if you can’t.”

“Use it only when you cannot establish voice communications or when speaking into a phone would present a significant safety risk,” Schwartz said. He noted, however, that Text to 9-1-1- is particularly useful for persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired.

Voice calls to 9-1-1 are preferred because they make it easier for dispatchers to give commands that can be extremely useful in providing medical assistance such as CPR and basic first aid instructions.

“It is important that anyone who does have to use Text to 9-1-1 provide as much information as possible, including exact location and nature of the incident,” said Jack Brown, director of Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management.

How it works

Text-to-9-1-1 uses SMS text messaging technology. The Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC) can now receive and send text messages to those in Arlington and Falls Church in need of emergency assistance who can’t make a 9-1-1 phone call. The system, Telecommunications System, Inc., also provides dispatchers with mapping capabilities to help pinpoint locations where text messages are received.

The system allows dispatchers to text up to 250 characters and can handle text messaging both in our main Emergency Communications Center as well as our back-up center.

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Arlington County Mobile WebsiteSince Arlington County updated its website two years ago, officials have seen significant increases in the number of mobile site visitors and e-mail subscribers, making it more critical than ever for the site to stay optimized for its on-the-go users.

According to the county’s Digital Communications Manager Jennifer Smith, 37 percent of site traffic is from mobile devices, up from 25 percent before the upgrade. Mobile phones account for 30 percent of site traffic, with the remaining 7 percent attributed to tablets.

“When we first redesigned the site our goal was to make it mobile-friendly,” Smith said. “Having mobile use increase from about a quarter to more than a third is huge, and the importance of being mobile-friendly is more critical than ever.”

With the upgrade came new features designed to be especially easy for mobile users, including the site’s calendar feature Arlington Today, more forms available online that can be completed on a mobile device, and organizing the site by topic rather than by department.

The County also rolled out a new e-mail subscription services feature over the summer with an easy sign-up option on the site’s homepage. Users can choose from a list of more than 100 topics they would like to be notified about, from police-related news to trash and recycling updates.

Smith said more than 65,000 people now subscribe to the service, and the average user is subscribed to 2.3 different topics.

She added this progress has inspired the County to do make more improvements to its digital offerings in the new year.

This includes plans to “do more in the mobile application space” in 2016. Though the County already has an app for reporting problems, there’s opportunity to expand it and make more services easily accessible on mobile devices.

“Our goal is to continually look for ways to improve the site and make it easier for those people coming to it,” Smith said. “I don’t think any organization in this day and age is moving away from mobile. It was a key part of revamping the site a couple years ago, so we’ll continue to look for ways to improve in that space.”

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An iPhoneWhile Arlington County has many long-time residents, it’s also home to many transplants who have moved here from other parts of the country within the past 15 years or so.

Spokeo, an online white pages service, has released a list quantifying where Arlington transplants originally came from. It has done so by taking a look at out-of-town cell phone numbers associated with Arlington addresses.

According to Spokeo, the following are the top home cities for Arlington transplants — excluding locales around the D.C. and Baltimore metro area:

  1. Chicago
  2. San Francisco
  3. San Diego
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Houston
  6. Dallas
  7. Austin
  8. Pittsburgh
  9. Philadelphia
  10. New York
  11. Atlanta
  12. Denver
  13. Seattle

The following are the top home states for Arlington transplants, excluding Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

  1. Colorado (4.0%)
  2. Pennsylvania (3.6%)
  3. Delaware (3.5%)
  4. Massachusetts (3.3%)
  5. Rhode Island (3.2%)
  6. New Jersey (3.0%)
  7. Connecticut (3.0%)
  8. Florida (2.9%)
  9. Georgia (2.5%)
  10. North Carolina (2.5%)
  11. Illinois (2.4%)
  12. New York (2.4%)
  13. California (2.3%)
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