An Update on the Montecito Wireline Resiliency Backup Power Project

By Kirsten McLaughlin   |   July 5, 2022

Living in Southern California can often feel like a dream. But as many can attest, it can quickly become a nightmare when you live in an area susceptible to natural disaster – even with the most calculated of emergency plans in place.

It is critical we can communicate in these situations – to call 9-1-1 or 2-1-1, to get emergency notifications on our smartphones, and to connect with our families and neighbors. That is why, last year, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) mandated that telecommunications providers provide 72 hours of backup power to equipment located within high fire-risk areas to help ensure reliable access to communications coverage in the event of an outage. Cox uses the 72 hours of backup power when the electric companies de-energize their equipment due to high-risk situations such as red flag wind advisories. These events are also known as Public Safety Power Shut Offs (PSPS). PSPS events can last for a few hours or a few days and turning the power back on is at the discretion of the electric companies as they evaluate public safety. 

When the CPUC announced this mandate, Cox Communications committed to installing backup generators in the Santa Barbara region (and other high fire threat service areas) to improve public safety and provide for communication services as part of the company’s statewide Wireline Resiliency Backup Power Project.

New Generators Will Provide 72 Hours of Backup Power to Save Lives

For now, Cox has identified natural gas generators as an option for backup power in Montecito. In addition to meeting rigorous CPUC standards, the natural gas generators boast more than 72 hours of backup power (without the need to refuel) and have the smallest physical footprint of all the options. Construction of 50 backup generator sites in Montecito began in late 2021. 

Installing these generators in some cases requires the construction of new above-ground cabinets next to existing power supply cabinets. Construction takes about two weeks per site, and there is no interruption to internet, phone, video, or natural gas service in the area during the project. Residents who live near installation sites are notified in advance.

Once established, the generators only turn on during loss of commercial power due to disasters or public safety power shutoffs (PSPS). In relying on natural gas backup generators in the event of a large-scale power outage due to PSPS, brownouts, rolling outages, earthquakes or fires, residents connected to the Cox network will maintain communication access to make emergency calls, receive emergency alerts, and access other critical information so long as they have access to backup power to power their devices.

Network Investment or the Next Generation

At Cox, we take great pride in investing in our community’s infrastructure needs. We have already put $15 billion into infrastructure upgrades for the communities we serve, and over the next decade, we will invest another $10 billion to build a 10 Gigabit-capable, fiber-optic network. 

Enhancements like this will enable Cox to deliver reliable, multi-Gigabit speeds to customers today and in the future to support a host of bandwidth-hungry applications and devices, even in the event of power outages due to emergencies or PSPS.

While most power outages are unavoidable, if we have learned anything as residents of this region, it is the importance of having an emergency plan. Central to these plans is our ability to communicate – with emergency services, with our loved ones and neighbors. At the heart of this project, Cox is doing what it can to ensure your ability to communicate during uncertain times. We ask that the community work with us, as we commit to working with you, in our efforts to keep you connected.  

Kirsten McLaughlin is the Market Vice President of Cox Communications


You might also be interested in...

  • Woman holding phone

    Support the
    Santa Barbara non-profit transforming global healthcare through telehealth technology