Dump Truck Wipes Out Santa Fe’s Internet

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Dump truck knocks Santa Fe offline

Xfinity customers across Santa Fe and Los Alamos lost Internet for most of Wednesday after a dump truck accident at the intersection of Cerrillos Road and Richards Avenue damaged utility lines. Internet service and, in some cases, phone service went down at approximately 12:30 pm and had not been restored by day’s end; an Xfinity spokeswoman estimated all customers would have service by 2 am today. Impacted customers shared their frustration, information and photographs on social media as the outage continued throughout the day (the accident also significantly backed up traffic in the vicinity). Several echoed the thoughts of Peter Wargo, principal systems architect for the National Center for Genome Resources, who told SFR yesterday “having one incident cause an outage for the majority of the city shows just how much we are at the mercy of a handful of internet service providers. This lack of competition and redundancy means we can now all too easily be cut off.” As of 4 am today, Xfinity’s app continued to report an outage impacting “50 to 500 customers,” as did its automated telephone alert system, although service appeared to be at least partially back on line.

Sen. Luján pushes for data caps

Yesterday’s internet outage may have required those residents who had cellular service to rely on it to connect—a trend that increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Citing a study from Open Vault, US Sen. Ben Ray Luján’s office reports monthly data use increased rapidly during the pandemic, with low data caps preventing some households from connecting and increasing the digital divide. Luján is expected today to introduce the Uncap America Act, which would require companies to only use data caps for network management purposes and direct the Federal Communications Commission to hold providers accountable when they impose predatory data caps. “As internet usage continues to be a necessity for work, education, and health care, no family should have to worry about extra fees and costs because of unnecessary limits on their data,” Luján, who chairs the US Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, said in a statement. Several advocacy groups released statements supporting the legislation, with Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at the Washington, DC-based nonprofit Public Knowledge, noting that “data caps make life particularly difficult for consumers. If users hit their monthly data limit, they are either forced to pay extra for more data or their broadband provider slows their connection to an unusable crawl until they pay up. Worse, these data caps disproportionately impact low-income people who can’t afford to pay up in the first place.”

SOS testifies to Congress about election threats

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver testified yesterday to the US Homeland Security Committee during a hearing titled “The Changing Election Security Landscape: Threats to Election Officials and Infrastructure.” In her testimony, Toulouse Oliver spoke of being doxed in 2020 and having to leave her home for several weeks under state police protection. “My office has since had to utilize services for both me and members of my staff that prevent doxxing by removing personal identifying information from the internet.” Also since the 2020 election cycle, the SOS office has seen “an uptick in social media trolling, aggrieved emails and calls into our office, and other communications that parrot the misinformation circulating widely in the national discourse.” Since the June 7 primary, she said, the office “has experienced pointed threats serious enough to be referred to law enforcement. As recently as June, for example, there were three threatening phone calls against me that were referred to our FBI field office for investigation.” Those more recent threats followed the Secretary of State’s creation of a “rumor versus reality” site to counter election misinformation and on the heels of the Otero County Commission’s refusal to certify election results citing a debunked conspiracy theory regarding the voting machines. “Growing distrust about our election systems leads to either apathy or indignation, both of which will have detrimental effects on our entire system of government,” Toulouse Oliver said, noting her concern that threats and “vitriol” aimed at election officials “will cause them so much stress and uncertainty that they will simply not want to do the work anymore,” while “the flood of misinformation” will cause voters to “lose more and more trust in the system” and “no longer participate in our democracy.” ICYMI, a New York Times Magazine also featured Toulouse Oliver recently in a story addressing the same issues. Speaking of which, the Jan. 6 Committee will hold its next hearing at 8 pm EST this evening.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported July 20

New cases: 1,177; 582,061 total cases

Deaths: 22; Santa Fe County had 326 total deaths; there have been 8,138 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 186. Patients on ventilators: 10

Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends, for the seven-day period of July 11-17, Grant County had the highest daily case rate per 100,000 population: 70.8, followed by Lincoln County at 68.3 and Quay County at 68.1; Santa Fe County’s case rate was 44.3, up from 42.4 the week prior.

Community levels: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly community levels report, which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination for its framework, for the seven-day period of July 7-13, seven counties—down from 11 last week—have “red” or high levels. After two weeks of high levels, Santa Fe County has decreased to “yellow” or medium levels. Nine counties have “green” or low levels and the rest are medium. The CDC’s recommendations include indoor masking for people living in counties with high community levels. The remainder of its recommendations can be found here. The CDC updates its map on Thursdays.

Resources: Vaccine registrationBooster registration Free at-home rapid antigen testsSelf-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453. Vaccines for children: Parents of children ages 6 months to 5 years can now schedule appointments for vaccinations at VaccineNM.org.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

The State Bar of New Mexico will be holding its annual meeting Aug. 11-13 and previews the event through interviews with some of the keynote and featured speakers on the most recent episode of its podcast, SBNM Is Hear. Guests include keynote speaker Desmond Meade, president and executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, who will be speaking on voting rights and criminal justice reform. Other guests on the show and the upcoming meeting include: Dana Tippin Cutler and Keith Cutler, partners from James W. Tippin & Associates in Kansas City, Missouri, who discuss diversity, equity and inclusion in the law and workplace. Lastly, Tiffany Bowden, an entrepreneur, business consultant, coach and corporate diversity expert, delves into the cannabis industry’s impact on people of color, and will be presenting at the annual meeting on “Rebranding the War on Drugs.”

Enchanted in NM

Salt Lake Magazine Outdoor and Park City Editor Tony Gill took a road trip to New Mexico and appears to have left no stone unturned in his quest to bike, hike and experience all the state has to offer. Gill spent some time in Angel Fire Bike Park, he writes, “home to a sprawling network of trails of every type from beginner-friendly flow to the gnarliest rock-filled steeps imaginable. While New Mexico mountain biking may conjure parched images of sand, rock and cracked dirt, the alpine reality is far different. Towering pine trees and vast aspen groves provide deliverance from the summer heat.” But his trip wasn’t confined to four wheels. Gill also took to the sky at Via Ferrata at Taos Ski Valley; rafted with Los Rios River Runners; visited both the Taos Art and Millicent Rogers museums; and took the measure of Taos’ food and beer scene. The story includes an impressive breakdown of other spots to sample New Mexico’s outdoors, architecture, food and natural wonders, including a few off-the-beaten path surprises, such as Whiting Brothers Service Station in Moriarty, Tee Pee Curios on Route 66; and the Spencer Theater in Alto. “Though one could spend a lifetime exploring New Mexico,” Gill writes, “it’s every bit the artistic haven [as] it is an outdoor paradise.”

Momaday on poetry, life and Santa Fe

Pulitzer Prize-winning Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday talks with The Millions about his latest book, Dream Drawings: Configurations of a Timeless Kinddescribed as “prose poems about nature, animals, warriors, and hunters, as well as meditations that explore themes of love, loss, time, and memory,” influenced by Momaday’s Native American heritage and oral storytelling tradition. Momaday, 88, tells The Millions he’s often more recognized as a novelist—because he won the 1969 Pulitzer for his novel A House Made of Dawn—but he “started writing poetry fairly early” and has focused on it more of late. The book also includes artwork; Momaday’s father, he says, was a painter, but Momaday came to drawing when he was about 40 years old, in the Soviet Union and lonely: “I somehow felt an urge to turn to drawing and so I did,” Momaday says. “I started drawing things that reminded me of my own homeland. That developed into a whole career of artistic expression. I started drawing seriously and then I started painting and that’s stayed with me all this time.” Well traveled, Momaday says he always ends up back in the Southwest. “I’ve been in and out of Santa Fe all my life,” he says. “Well, it feels like it’s been all my life; since I was about the age of twelve. I’ve been in and out of it, but I always come back to it. I guess I think of it as my home. It’s an incomparable landscape. Full of color and drama. So I appreciate that very much and take hold of that in my own imagination.”

Sunny with a chance for rain

The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly sunny day with a high temperature near 92 degrees. The area will see scattered showers and thunderstorms after noon today and before 9 pm tonight, with chances for precipitation ranging from 40% today to 30% this evening.

Thanks for reading! The Word is enjoying perusing and streaming the Audubon Society’s Birdsong Project (Open Culture has a primer on the project, along with videos).