Arlington, VA

Thousands of Comcast customers in Arlington are without internet, TV and phone service this afternoon.

A major Comcast outage is currently affecting large swaths of Arlington, from the northernmost part of the county down. Comcast’s outage map shows reported issues throughout residential North Arlington and much of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. (The map only shows areas near a given subscriber and ARLnow was unable to view areas south of the R-B corridor.)

Comcast is currently estimating restoration of service around 6-6:30 p.m.

The outage started just before 1 p.m., right around when a truck took down utility lines along Route 50. It’s unclear if that incident and the outage are related.

Among those affected by the outage are small businesses like Pupatella Pizza in Bluemont, which said via social media that its internet ordering and phone lines were down.

Map via Comcast

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Morning Notes

Residents Support HQ2 in Letters — “Many Arlingtonians want Amazon.com Inc. to set up HQ2 in Crystal City and Pentagon City — or at least that is what a slew of letters and emails to the [Arlington County Board] seems to indicate… ‘I would say the theme of the emails is: ‘Don’t blow it,” [Libby] Garvey said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Expect Fireworks at County Board Meeting — “Board Chair Christian Dorsey (D) said he has ‘no interest’ in postponing [this weekend’s Amazon] vote and has heard no suggestions to do so from other board members. He expects the measure to pass, but he also said anywhere from 100 to 400 speakers could show up for the public hearing before the vote.” [Washington Post]

More on Expected HQ2 Jobs — “While Amazon has said about half of the 25,000 HQ2 jobs here will be tech-related, we now know a bit more about the breakdown, thanks to a Thursday talk by Ardine Williams, vice president of people operations for the company, to high schoolers.” [Washington Business Journal]

Extended Comcast Outage — Much of Arlington lost its Comcast cable and internet service for several hours Sunday. [Twitter]

More Trouble for Trustify — “Real estate investment trust JBG Smith Properties Inc. is heading to court to try to collect on a $263,477.21 judgment against one of its tenants, private investigation startup Trustify. The Chevy Chase developer won an ‘unlawful detainer’ judgment against the company Jan. 31, allowing it to evict Trustify from its main office at 200 12th St. South in Crystal City.” [Washington Business Journal]

ACFD Helped Battle McLean Fire — Arlington County firefighters helped to extinguish a house fire in McLean over the weekend. One resident died in the blaze. [Tysons Reporter]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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Morning Notes

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

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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.

Sincerely,

Josh Blanchard

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.

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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.

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Morning Notes

Demolition work in the former Mad Rose Tavern and future Bao Bar space

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.”

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Morning Notes

Tree cut down in Fairlington

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]

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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.

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Arlington Independent Media in Clarendon

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.

Arlington Independent Media students interview a subject on Wilson Boulevard in ClarendonUnder 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.

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Morning Notes

September sunset over volleyball court in Fairlington

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 @ArlnowAdded 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.

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Comcast outage map 7/16/16Update at 5:50 p.m. — Numerous users around Arlington are reporting that their service has been restored. 

“We have identified the und​erlying 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.

Screen capture via downdetector.com

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