Ocracoke Island was without phone and Brightspeed internet access for seven hours on Monday.

By Connie Leinbach

An internet and phone fiber outage for seven hours on Ocracoke on Monday gave the community the chance to test the Tekniam backup system.

Randal Mathews, Ocracoke’s Hyde County commissioner, said that the outage occurred around 7:30 Monday morning when NCDOT cut the phone and Brightspeed fiber optic cable along the shoulder at the entrance to Hatteras Village (Dare County).

“The outage impacted approximately 1,000 customers south of Avon including Ocracoke,” said Gene Rodriguez Miller, Brightspeed public relations director. “We immediately dispatched repair crews and service was restored that same day, Nov 20.” 

For just this reason, wireless service from Tekniam, based in Lenexa, Kansas, has been in a trial stage in a small area of Ocracoke village since August of 2022.

Mathews, a retired Century Link technician, was in a Tourism Development Authority (TDA) meeting Monday morning in the Community Center when a few islanders came by for his help getting onto the system, which is in several locations along Irvin Garrish Highway, he said.

In addition to the module at the Community Center, Tekniam modules are in place at the Hyde County sheriff’s office, the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Company, Ride the Wind Surf Shop and Harborside Motel.

Another module will soon go on top of Little Rituals in Spencer’s Market, Mathews said, adding that although the Pirates Chest roof has a module, it is not working properly at the moment.

“Today showed some of the bugs to work through,” he said, because “it’s not a question of ‘if’ we’re going to have outages but when.”

Monday’s outage showed that some of the signals at the buildings are better while outside than inside, but he and Tekniam are working on improving that, thanks to a $842,000 grant from the state Department of Public Safety to Hyde County, which also will be used to expand the system throughout the village.

Mathews previously received $25,000 from the TDA and $90,000 from the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board for the project.

Mathews also said that cell phone users need to enable WiFi calling on their phones before an outage occurs.

In these outage situations, the Tekniam system can only be used for email, text messaging and phone calling and cannot be used for streaming services, and at this point, Tekniam is only available in emergencies for backup when a fiber is cut.

The sheriff deputies and EMS were not affected because they use a system, supplied by the state EMS, Mathews said.  However, islanders need to be able to call 911, which is available through the Tekniam system.

“You need to be close to the modules,” he said about using the service.

You also need a password.

When an outage occurs, islanders can go to any of the buildings listed above and search for HYCO. The password for that is: SilkBeauty3.

Another access line is: OINC-BIZ. The password for that is: TEKbiz456!

Mathews is working on getting the HYCO access open without needing a password.

The Ocracoke United Methodist Church posted on Facebook that the church has Starlink available and that the doors were open.

In March and May of 2022, two similar outages occurred due to digging accidents and one occurred in March this year.

Correction: This story was corrected from an earlier version to note that NCDOT, not a contractor, cut the fiber optic cable outside of Hatteras Village, affecting Hatteras Village and Ocracoke.

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    • Not yet. Actually, Randal Mathews said this service is being used in emergencies, such as when an optic fiber is cut. Privatizing it is not in the plan at the moment.

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