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    Saturday, March 02, 2024

    Preston turned to Norwich Public Utilities for help with failed phone system

    Preston — Like a person calling a neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar to complete a recipe, when a crucial computer switch failed Thursday and knocked out the Town Hall phone and internet system, First Selectman Robert Congdon called “neighbor” Norwich Public Utilities.

    More specifically, Congdon called Randy Black, a Preston resident and NPU technology manager.

    “I asked: 'You wouldn’t happen to have a 48-port computer switch lying around?'” Congdon told the Board of Selectmen Thursday evening.

    In the aftermath of Wednesday’s snow and slush that knocked down trees and wires and left hundreds of residents in town without power, Preston needed to get Town Hall phones and internet service back as soon as possible. Unrelated to the storm, the Town Hall phones and internet went down overnight Wednesday when a 2007 computer switch failed. Town officials couldn't purchase a switch fast enough.

    NPU, which had just completed restoration of power to the 1,000 NPU customers Thursday afternoon, brought that "cup of sugar" to Preston Town Hall.

    NPU had the 48-port switch — which connects all Town Hall computers and phones to the main computer — and sent a two-person crew to Preston Town Hall. They installed and tested the switch and “had it up and running within an hour,” NPU General Manager John Bilda said.

    “Bob Congdon’s an old friend, and Preston is a neighbor of Norwich,” Bilda said. “The decision to help out was easy and immediate. During storms, mutual aid extends far beyond just restoring power. They had people without power and needed to have phone service.”

    Preston will order a new 48-port switch, costing an estimated $500, Congdon said, and will call NPU when it arrives.

    “When a new switch comes in, we’ll take ours back and maybe install the new one, too,” Bilda said.

    Congdon said Preston was very grateful to NPU for helping resolve the problem. He said the informal partnership between the town — an Eversource power franchise town — and NPU has been invaluable over the years.

    “It was a tough day to be without a phone system,” Congdon said. “It cost them exactly nothing, but made a world of difference for us.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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