Arlington Nonprofit Gets State Grant — “Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced a $175,000 grant to La Cocina VA, a nonprofit workforce development organization in Arlington County, to enhance its culinary skills training facility, create a business plan training course, and develop a small business competition.” [Gov. Terry McAuliffe]
Actual Driverless Car in Arlington — Moving beyond vans with people dressed as car seats, an actual driverless car has now taken to the streets within Arlington County. An autonomous vehicle developed by Carnegie Mellon University drove itself around Ft. Myer yesterday as part of the military base’s Industry Day event. [Facebook]
Nestle Buys Blue Bottle — Nestle, which is still moving into its new U.S. headquarters in Rosslyn, has bought Oakland, Ca.-based hipster coffee brand Blue Bottle. Could that mean that a Blue Bottle location in Arlington is around the corner? Possibly, but the company already has a location across the river in Georgetown. [Washington Business Journal, Nestle]
Arlington Gets Gigabit Internet — Comcast announced earlier this week that “it has launched a new Internet service in Arlington that will deliver speeds up to 1 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) to residential and business customers.” According to a press release, “these speeds will be among the fastest and most widely available,” utilizing DOCSIS 3.1 technology. The cost of the service is $79.99 a month with a one-year contract or $104.95 a month without.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The owner of a small technology business wrote to the Arlington County Board this week to argue that the existing choices for high-speed internet service in Arlington are inadequate and new options should be considered.
Josh Blanchard, a Ballston resident, shared his letter with ARLnow.com.
Dear County Board of Arlington,
Imagine that new residents in Arlington routinely went for days or weeks without power, or water service in their new homes. Imagine that the power company routinely shut off service to new and old residents for arbitrary reasons, and that restoring service required dozens of hours spent on the phone battling a Kafkaesque bureaucracy.
This is the situation we have in Arlington county right now with internet service, and it is untenable. I’m writing to ask what plan the county has to improve competition in Arlington for reliable, high speed Internet service.
My wife and I have been Arlington residents for 10 years, and recently moved to a new home in Avon Park just west of Ballston. Our experience with Verizon FIOS has been so aggravating that I find myself regretting our decision to remain in Arlington. The prior resident at our new home had Verizon FIOS working, we are FIOS subscribers. The switch should have been flawless, as it was for our other utilities. It was not. Our service worked for 24 hours before Verizon arbitrarily shut us down, and now insists that it will be a week before they restore service. We have been on and off the phone with Verizon for days, in a series of increasingly more futile conversations. Our only other option for high speed Internet is Comcast, who offers incredibly unreliable Internet and also has terrible customer service. In our old house (also in Avon Park), we repeatedly suffered similar outages and aggravations at the hands of both Comcast and Verizon. Our experience is far from unique – terrible treatment and unreliable service from Verizon and Comcast is par for the course in Arlington County.
I’m a software engineer and business owner who works from home. Internet is not a luxury for me, it is an essential utility. Our home is replete with IoT devices that require Internet to function. The temperate in our home got to 85 degrees in the middle of the night last night because our thermostat does not function properly without Internet connectivity. Our home security will not work without internet. Not to mention, every minute we are without service costs my business money.
We live just 3 blocks away from the Ballston Business Improvement District, and as you know the county is actively courting startups and technology companies to the area. If a fellow business owner were to ask me about locating a new tech startup here, I would caution them against it, as Internet service is too essential to be left to the dreadful oligopoly we have with Comcast and Verizon. Our options for residential internet service are appalling for an urban area, making Arlington an undesirable location for most tech companies who will rely heavily on telecommuting. Commercial service options in the area are no better. If Arlington wishes to grow a tech friendly community, we must address this problem.
To that end, I have a few questions to ask you:
1) What is the county doing to court competitors to Comcast and Verizon, such as Google Fiber?
2) What steps has the county board in Arlington taken to lower the regulatory burden for laying fiber infrastructure, and court new ISP startups, like Brooklyn Fiber, Chattanooga Fiber, or Rocket Fiber in Detroit?
3) Has Arlington county explored establishing a county run municipal broadband service?
4) What other steps does the county plan to improve competition for high speed Internet service to Arlington residents?
Thank you for your time and consideration, I look forward to hearing your response.
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.
A section of Columbia Pike closed in both directions for downed utility lines lying in the roadway.
The Pike closed to all traffic between S. Randolph Street and S. George Mason Drive, with police diverting cars onto side streets. A reader said the lines came down around 2:30 p.m. Thursday (July 15) at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive.
Crews from both Verizon and Comcast were on scene to fix the downed lines. According to scanner traffic, some lanes began to reopen just after 4:15 p.m.
Drivers in the area should expect continued delays as lanes reopen.
Resident Helps ACPD Arrest Break-in Suspects — On Saturday an Arlington resident spotted a group of people breaking into car and immediately called 911, leading to the arrest of three juvenile suspects. Police say such cooperation from the community can help them fight crime. Over the weekend more than 30 vehicles were “entered and rummaged through” in Arlington. [Facebook]
Alexandria Schools Closed Wednesday — Alexandria City Public Schools will be closed on Wednesday after more than 300 staff members requested leave. That coincides with Wednesday’s “Day Without Women” protest. Arlington Public Schools will remain open, a spokesman said, although Wednesday is an early release day for elementary schools. [Twitter, InsideNova]
Orange Line’s Abysmal On-Time Rate — Last year trains on Metro’s Orange Line were only on time 56 percent of the time. [Twitter]
Spotlight on Uyghur Cuisine — Crystal City’s Queen Amannisa is one of three restaurants serving Uyghur cuisine — with its mix of Chinese, Central Asian and Middle Eastern influences — in the D.C. area. Uyghur “is going to be the next big thing in the United States,” said a partner in the restaurant. [Washington Post]
Chick-fil-A Coming to DCA — A new Chick-fil-A restaurant is coming to Terminal C at Reagan National Airport, in the former Cosi space. [PoPville]
Grand Opening for Xfinity Store — On Saturday Comcast celebrated the grand opening of its new 6,700 square foot Xfinity store in Courthouse. The store replaces the former Comcast Service Center in Clarendon. The store “features a comfortable seating area and informational, interactive displays where customers can learn more about Comcast’s products and services, including Comcast Business services, the X1 Entertainment Operating System, Xfinity Home automation and security offerings and Comcast’s suite of mobile apps.”
Bad Morning for Metro — There were significant delays on the Blue, Orange, Silver and Red lines this morning, as various train, power and switch problems were reported. [Washington Post]
The Cable Was Out, Too — Not only were more than 3,000 Dominion residents affected by a power outage on Super Bowl Sunday, but Comcast was having problems, too. Scores of Arlington and Alexandria residents lost their cable TV and/or internet service during the big game. Comcast blamed a “generator fire” at the Ballston mall as well as a “burned fiber.” [NBC Washington]
Lander Lands Primary Challenge — School Board member James Lander has picked up a challenger in this year’s Democratic endorsement caucus. Maura McMahon, an Alcova Heights resident who’s been active in various PTA organizations, says she’s running to provide “fresh thinking and better solutions.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Man Wins Krispy Kreme Challenge — Arlington resident Nick Oltman, 29, has won this year’s Krispy Kreme Challenge in North Carolina. The race involves running 2.5 miles to a Krispy Kreme store, eating a dozen glazed donuts, and running 2.5 miles back. Oltman, a Marine, posted a time of 30:15. [News & Observer]
Why VDOT Was Pre-Treating Roads Last Week — You might have noticed the long trails of brine on VDOT maintained roads and highways last week and wondered why they were pre-treating roads with no snow or ice in the forecast. The agency says their crews started treating roads earlier in the week while some forecasts suggested a possible winter storm on Sunday. [Capital Weather Gang]
Arlington’s New Visitor Guide — The 2017-2018 Arlington Visitors Guide has been released. The 32-page guide highlights attractions, amenities and events Arlington has to offer, specifically geared to tourists. [Stay Arlington, Issuu]
The Comcast Service Center in Clarendon is moving to Courthouse.
A sign in the service center, at 2707 Wilson Blvd, says it will close effective Saturday, Jan. 7. Local cable customers will instead be able to go to a new “Xfinity store” at 1515 N. Courthouse Road for payments, equipment exchange and other service.
Comcast recently reached a new franchise agreement with Arlington County. Under the agreement, Arlington Independent Media will be able to keep its studios in the rear of the Comcast building in Clarendon, but will begin paying rent on Jan. 1, 2018.
It’s unclear what the existing service center space will be used for after the move.
Photos by Samantha Moore. Hat tip to Eric LeKuch.
Arlington Independent Media, the local public access cable channel and media education center, is asking its members to support a new cable franchise agreement the county has reportedly reached with Comcast.
The franchise agreement is what allows Comcast to serve customers in Arlington, to the exclusion of other traditional cable providers. (Verizon’s FiOS service has its own franchise agreement in Arlington.)
Arlington County has been negotiating a franchise agreement renewal with Comcast since 2013, when its last long-term agreement expired. The County Board has continuously, temporarily extended the agreement until negotiations could conclude.
The specifics of the new agreement, which reportedly runs through Dec. 2021 and is expected to be considered by the County Board next month, were not immediately available. However, in an email to its members, AIM said the agreement would continue to fund the organization, with some notable changes.
Under the agreement, AIM would be upgraded to an HD channel on Comcast’s cable service. Meanwhile, the organization would “continue to receive approximately 1% of Comcast’s gross revenue as operating support,” according to the email, with the county contributing another 1% from its 5% communications tax in addition to an annual capital grant.
AIM’s current facilities in the Comcast building in Clarendon, however, would cease to be rent-free starting Jan. 1, 2018. That “presents AIM with a significant challenge and we will have to quickly figure out a way to remain viable under these conditions,” wrote AIM Executive Director Paul LeValley.
Overall, LeValley wrote, the agreement is “very positive for AIM and we are grateful to the County for negotiating its terms on our behalf.” The only change the organization is seeking is a provision requiring that Comcast list its programming on its on-screen guide.
It is “imperative that our full program schedule be included in Comcast’s digital program guide,” wrote LaValley. “Unfortunately, the draft agreement fails to make this requirement. We believe that inclusion of our program schedule would significantly improve our ability to attract and keep audiences for the many fine programs that you all work so hard to create for our community.”
The full email has been published on the AIM website.
Another Temporary Extension for Comcast — The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected to approve another temporary extension of the county’s franchise agreement with cable operator Comcast. The extension will run through Oct. 31, 2016. Comcast’s last long-term franchise agreement in Arlington expired in 2013; officials say the temporary extensions have been necessary to allow negotiations to continue. [Arlington County]
Arlington Community High School Open House — The former Arlington Mill High School program has a new name, a new location and will be holding an open house this weekend. Arlington Community High School, as it is now known, has moved to the former Fenwick Center at 800 S. Walter Reed Drive. The school is holding an open house from 9-11:30 a.m. this coming Saturday. [Arlington Public Schools]
Clement Laments Development — Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement says she has exposed “disturbing development trends in Arlington.” According to Clement, continued development has “transformed Arlington” and harmed schools and parks. [Audrey Clement]
Nova Armory ‘Under New Ownership’ — Added at 9:55 a.m. — Lyon Park gun store Nova Armory, which was the scene of a break-in earlier this week, is “under new ownership,” according to a tweet sent from the store’s Twitter account overnight. No additional information was immediately available. [Twitter]
Twitter FYI: We’re Not @Arlnow — Added at 10:05 a.m. — The above tweet presents a great opportunity to remind readers that our Twitter handle is @ARLnowDOTcom. It’s not @arlnow, which belongs to an Apple news site that hasn’t published a new tweet since 2010. Check here to see if you’re among the folks tweeting at the wrong account.
“We have identified the underlying cause and services are being restored,” said Jamie Debole, a Comcast representative, via email. “Customers’ services should now be working.”
Earlier: Comcast customers in Arlington, the D.C. area and much of the northeast U.S. are reporting issues with their cable TV service.
According to various social media posts, the problem is affecting those on Comcast’s X1 platform — its newest cable boxes. Some are also reporting sluggish internet service.
Various Twitter users, citing Comcast customer service reps, are saying that the problems were caused by a failed automatic upgrade to the cable boxes.
Comcast suffered a major business phone service outage earlier this week.
— Rob Link (@TheWiGoMan) July 16, 2016
@ARLnowDOTcom it's been out all day. website says 6 pm for resolution. Had previously said 3 pm.
— Christian Robinson (@corkyrobinson) July 16, 2016
@ARLnowDOTcom out all day in Shirlington.
— Patrick Martin (@techintegrator) July 16, 2016
— Chris Ferguson (@SysAdm_Chris) July 16, 2016
— Mark Connolly (@sr_connolly) July 16, 2016
Screen capture via downdetector.com
Update at 1 p.m. — Service has been restored to affected Comcast customers in Arlington, a company spokeswoman tells ARLnow.com. “We are very sorry about that, we know that our customers do rely on our products,” she said. The outage was caused by a “fiber cut during maintenance overnight.”
Residents throughout Arlington’s Fairlington neighborhood area were left without their Comcast TV and internet service this morning.
The company has told customers that they expect service to be restored later today, perhaps by noon.
Fairlington is one of the last Arlington neighborhoods without Verizon FiOS service, which competes with Comcast elsewhere in the county. Meanwhile, Arlington County has been granting Comcast temporary extensions on its cable franchise agreement since 2013 while the two sides negotiate a new long-term agreement.
A large tree has fallen across a residential street near Gunston Middle School, bringing down utility lines and damaging a parked car.
The tree fell around noon, amid gusty winds. No injuries were reported.
Currently, 28th Street S. is blocked between S. Lang Street and Arlington Ridge Road.
Numerous crews from Arlington County and Comcast are on scene, preparing to remove the tree and repair the lines and snapped utility poles.
‘Sound of Music’ Star Recalls Arlington Upbringing — Showbiz star Nicholas Hammond, who played Friedrich von Trapp in the “Sound of Music” 50 years ago, recently recounted his childhood in Arlington. “I loved growing up there, in a much simpler time,” he told Charlie Clark. “My brother and I had paper routes. Your parents thought nothing of kids going off on their bikes pre-dawn and throwing papers onto front-door steps. We’d play ball, or go on our bikes or explore the woods. It all seemed very safe.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Local Masseuse Working Out Trump Stress — Locals are stressing out about the idea of Donald Trump becoming the next president of the United States. Reports the Post: “Amanda Long, an Arlington, Va., massage therapist… has grown accustomed in recent weeks to clients laying down on her table and bellowing, ‘Can you believe this guy?’ Long allows her clients to vent for a few minutes before she tries to quiet them, if only so they can relax and she can attend to their aches.” [Washington Post]
Comcast Outage in Crystal City — Comcast customers in parts of Crystal City and South Arlington were without their TV, voice and internet service for most of the day yesterday. Service has since been restored, we hear.
Garvey: Use Garages During Snowstorms — To speed up snow plowing on local streets, county leaders want to try to reduce the number of cars parked on the side of the road during snowstorms. To facilitate that, County Board Chair Libby Garvey has asked county staff to look into the idea of opening up Arlington’s parking garages as emergency snow parking areas. [InsideNova]
Winter Is Over — The groundhog was right: an early spring is here. It may still be officially winter, but all computer models are pointing to warmer-than-average weather through April. [Capital Weather Gang]
Fairlington is the last neighborhood in Arlington to be wired for FiOS, according to Rob Billingsley, Arlington County’s Cable Administrator.
Under an agreement with Verizon enacted in June 2006, the company agreed to complete a county-wide implementation of FiOS service within 10 years. The initial service build-out took place mostly in north Arlington, before Verizon’s fiber optic lines were brought to other parts of the county during a second phase of the project.
The final phase, in Fairlington, is expected to wrap up this summer, Billingsley said.
One unanswered question — which is one of the subjects of a scheduled Feb. 10 Fairlington community meeting — is how Verizon will get service from the fiber optic lines that run along the street to the thousands of condo units that make up the World War II-era neighborhood.
It’s a straightforward process for single family homes, for which the home owner also owns the surrounding lot. In historic Fairlington, however, various condominium associations own the land and control changes to the property.
Verizon will need to strike agreements with each condo association to outline how it will get service from the street to each unit. It’s theoretically possible that FiOS could fulfill its contractual obligations to the county by laying the fiber lines without actually providing any residents with service, Billingsley noted.
While FiOS is widely available to homes in the county, many apartment buildings and condo complexes still lack the infrastructure to support FiOS service.
The franchise agreement allows Comcast to have a monopoly over traditional cable service in Arlington County, in exchange for certain customer service guarantees and funding and bandwidth for public access, education and government (PEG) TV channels.
Comcast and Arlington are “still talking,” Billingsley said, noting that “these sometimes can be complex agreements and there’s a lot at stake.”
The county hopes to reach an agreement by June 30, when the current temporary extension expires. Billingsley declined to specify the points of negotiation, but said such negotiations generally revolve around customer service standards, quality of service and PEG channels.
In terms of the county demands that Comcast is supposedly balking at, Billingsley would only say “it’s not much.” Under FCC rules, the county is not able to regulate Comcast’s rates because of the competition from Verizon in the market.
Billingsley encouraged any resident who has had problems with Comcast or Verizon, that the company has not resolved after being notified of the issue, to call his office at 703-228-3242.
Arlington County is in the process of negotiating with Comcast for a new long term franchise agreement, but they’ve run out of time. That’s why they’re requesting a one year extension, which will be examined at Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting.
Franchise agreements, which allow cable and video service providers to operate in a locality, typically are negotiated once every 10-15 years. Comcast took over an existing franchise agreement in 2000 and that expired in June of this year. In June, the County Board approved a six month temporary contract extension, which ends this month. Because both parties are still hashing out details of a long term agreement, they submitted the request currently before the Board for another temporary extension, to expire in December of 2014.
“The purpose of the extension is to give us time to negotiate the best deal we can with Comcast,” said the county’s Cable Administrator Rob Billingsley. “Rather than put the agreement in any kind of peril, the idea is that the Board passes, hopefully, that extension so we do have that time. All parties agree to do this, it’s not at all controversial.”
Both parties are required by law to keep the negotiations confidential. Billingsley did say, however, that the meetings have been successful and productive thus far.
“Because these agreements last as long as do, there’s some complexity to it,” Billingsley explained. “You’re not rushing it and you’re getting the best deal possible.”
The long term contracts allow Comcast to use the county’s “rights of way” such as streets and sidewalks. In exchange, Comcast provides free public education and government TV channels, in addition to grants and equipment for producing shows on those channels. The county also receives approximately five percent of Comcast’s gross revenue in Arlington, which is first routed through the state due to tax requirements and then heads back into the county’s general fund.
Part of the cable franchise renewal process involves examining Comcast’s past performance and determining future services to be included in the new agreement. There was a public meeting to discuss such desired services back in September of 2011.
County staff is recommending the County Board approve the temporary contract extension on Saturday.
W-L Softball Field Approved — The Arlington County Board has unanimously approved use permits for a new softball field at Washington-Lee High School. The $1 million field will include lighting, grandstands, and a press box.
Comcast Doubling Internet Speeds — Arlington is one of the areas where Comcast is increasing its internet speeds this week. The company says it’s doubling the internet speeds of Arlington customers who currently have the Blast 25 Mbps or the Extreme 50 Mbps internet service, at no additional cost. “This is the seventh time since 2002 that Comcast has increased speeds for its customers,” Comcast spokeswoman Alisha Martin said.
Encore’s ‘Pirates of Penzance’ Reviewed — The Encore Stage and Studio production of “The Pirates of Penzance” — currently playing at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater at 125 S. Old Glebe Road — is “two hours of solid entertainment for all ages,” according to a newspaper review. [Sun Gazette]