One year in, Magellan GPS system still not recognizing complete Maryland Intercounty Connector (ICC)

According to NBCWashington.com, “A Maryland lawmaker is calling on the state to reduce the tolls charged to use the Intercounty Connector. Montgomery County Councilman Phil Andrews says the ICC is underused.”

As the NBC piece explains, the decision belongs to the Maryland Transportation Authority. But before the MTA experiments with the toll rates, they might want to try something that could make more drivers aware of the ICC.

There’s been plenty of marketing and media about the new road but one thing that could send even more drivers onto the road would be if GPS systems suggested it as a quicker route. A 10 mile section of the ICC that begins at I-95 near Laurel, crosses Route 29 and connects with the oldest portion of the toll road near Olney, does not show up in Magellan my GPS system, even after downloading the latest map update last week.

When I enter in “BWI Airport” as my desired destination, for example, before leaving my home in the Rockville/North Potomac area, my GPS suggests I take 270 to 495 to 95, as if the ICC doesn’t even exist. Yet this faster route has been open for nearly a year now.

Perhaps the tolls are too steep to attract some drivers. But getting the road recognized by navigation devices that seem to be showing up on more and more dashboards might be something to try first, before adjusting rates.


If anyone has experienced anything involving the ICC and other GPS systems, or with a Magellan like I have, please add a comment below. 

Live music at Dogfish Head

Some video I took last night…

Jon Kaplan from DC band Bicycle Thieves, covering Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” at Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg, MD – July 2, 2011

When will the ICC open?

InterCountyConnector (ICC) - MD 200

Image via Wikipedia

I wrote a freelance piece on the InterCounty Connector (ICC) for the North Potomac-Darnestown edition of Patch. Having grown up in Maryland, I’ve been hearing about this road, also known as Maryland Route 200, for as long as I can remember—it’s been debated for decades.

Sometime in the coming weeks or months, possibly as early as late December of this year, the first segment of the road is due to open. Check out that link above to the article for more details.

What Affect Will the ICC Have on Property Value?

Living just a few miles from where the first segment of the Intercounty Connector (ICC) is scheduled to open this fall in Maryland, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the new road will do for our property value. By late 2011, when two additional segments of the ICC are due to open, it will be possible for someone living in my area to travel from 270 near Rockville to 95 near Laurel without having to go on the DC Beltway or back roads.

Suddenly, it should get much easier for anyone living near us to work in places like Columbia and Baltimore or fly out of BWI, to give just a few examples of what the new road could offer, and I anticipate the ICC will have a positive affect on property value for those with easy access to it. My hunch is that we might see an up-tick in the next few months, as the opening of the first stretch nears and buzz around it builds, with more to come as we approach the opening of the remaining stretches that will connect 270 and 95 in late 2011.

What do you think?

Caps & Wizards fans, Verizon FiOS has “solution for the ‘over flow’ games”

Here’s some promising news on the Verizon FiOS/CSN+ situation

I’ve been exchanging messages with Verizon Director of Product Management Joseph Ambeault on Twitter over the past week and on Friday afternoon he said: “Caps & Wizards fans – you have been heard & we have a solution for the ‘over flow’ games – hustling implementation plan.”

Those are the only details I have from them at this time, but I will post any updates I get.

According to the schedules on each team’s website, the next game that is set to air on CSN+ is Saturday, December 12 for the Caps, when they play at Toronto, and Friday, December 18 for the Wizards, when they play at Golden State.

12/11/09 Update — as I’ve noted in the comments below, a Verizon official has said that the affected FiOS customers will not have CSN+ in time for this Saturday (12/12/09) night’s Caps game in Toronto.

Further updates have been posted in the comments below.

Previous posts on the FiOS/CSN+ issue:
11/18/09 – Verizon Fios Frustrating Some Caps Fans in D.C. Area
11/19/09 – An update on the Verizon FiOS & CSN+ situation
11/24/09 – FiOS Update…Why Some Get Two MASNs But Not Two CSNs

FiOS Update: Including Why Some Get Two MASNs But Not Two CSNs

I exchanged some more emails with a member of Verizon’s PR staff, as I continue to try to get a better understanding of the issues previously mentioned here, with FiOS customers in some parts of the D.C. area unable to get Comcast SportsNet Plus (CSN+).

What I learned in that email exchange might be helpful to some of you who are trying to understand why you can’t get Caps and Wizards games on CSN+ via FiOS in your area, when a FiOS customer in a neighboring county can. Or why you could get MASN2 on your FiOS channel 1 during baseball season, but can’t get CSN+ now.

If you are a FiOS customer in a part of the D.C. area that gets CSN+, it is shown on your channel 1. For you, that channel is called Fios1. This distinction between Fios1 and channel 1 is key to understanding this whole situation.

For the DC market, FiOS1 is available—according to the CSN Plus Listings on CSNWashington.com—in the following areas: Montgomery County and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland and then Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Loudoun County, Prince William, Spotsylvania County and Stafford County in Virginia.

Now for FiOS customers in someplace like Howard County, you have a channel 1. That channel was carrying MASN2 this summer. But, that channel is now blank for you, most or all of the time, according to one FiOS customer who lives there. Channel 1 for all of these particular FiOS customers is not FiOS1; it is just channel 1 and it does not carry CSN+.

The reason channel 1 carried MASN2 for these FioS customers this summer is, according to Verizon’s PR staff, because “MASN makes MASN2 available as a full-time feed. Comcast does not make CSN+ available as a full-time feed. At this time, [Verizon is] not able to handle a part-time feed like that, so outside of where [Verizon has] FiOS1, [they] cannot offer a part-time channel like CSN+.”

So, the only way FiOS customers in these areas could get CSN+ on FiOS channel 1 would be if either:

1.) Verizon turns Channel 1 into FiOS1 in these locations, like it is in all the locations listed above or 2.) Comcast SportsNet decides at some point to turn CSN+ into a full-time feed like MASN does with MASN2.

As for point number 1, Verizon says that FiOS1 is “a local channel that [Verizon] offers right now in three areas: DC metro, Long Island (New York), and Northern New Jersey. As [FiOS] moves forward, [they’ll] announce any plans to expand the channel.”

People can debate where the DC metro area begins and ends, but for right now, according to the way FiOS defines it with FiOS1, it does not include some areas that are as close as about 20 miles to where the Caps and Wizards play their home games.

If I could get Verizon to answer one question, it would be: What specifically is preventing them from putting FiOS1 on channel 1 right now in these other DC area locations where there is demand for the CSN+ games? That’s the one thing I still have not gotten a clear answer on.

As for option number 2, this would require CSN+ to fill the time outside of games with some type of content. MASN2 did this by airing ESPN News. I have not heard whether or not this is something CSN would consider or even has the capacity to do. I only know that they want to help Verizon find a solution to this problem.

Despite the uncertainties, one things is pretty clear—a lot of people are losing in the current set-up. Caps and Wizards fans are not able to watch approximately a dozen of each team’s games, FiOS risks losing some of these fans to competing cable TV companies, CSN is not having some of their content seen by people who want that content and, finally, the teams whose games aren’t being seen are missing out on some opportunities to reach current and potential fans.

We need a beer summit.

An update on the Verizon FiOS & CSN+ situation

Here’s an update on my post from Wednesday, about how Verizon FiOS only carries CSN+ in some parts of the D.C. area, causing frustrations for some Caps fans. I corresponded with representatives from both Comcast SportsNet and Verizon about the issue and want to share their responses.

But first, a quick thank you to the writers who linked to the post, sending a boatload of traffic to it. To J.P. at Japer’s Rink on SB Nation, Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports, Dave Hughes at DCRTV and Dave McKenna at Washington City Paper’s Cheap Seats Daily — thank you!

And thank you to everyone who Tweeted about the story or posted comments on the blog. It was great to see so many people who are passionate about the issue and watching Caps games.

Those last few paragraphs felt like the Oscars, but it was important to me that I say thank you, because I really do appreciate all the links, discussion and thoughts you’ve shared.

So, here’s what I’ve got as of right now…

Tim Fitzpatrick, VP Communications with Comcast Sports Group called me today after I had reached out to a PR professional who works with the company. I was curious to know if there was anything that could be done on Comcast SportsNet’s end to resolve the issue, especially after seeing reader Jill’s comment on my original post yesterday, where she talked about the resolution that Cox and Comcast SportsNet reached, as she states “at the very beginning of the 2008-2009 season,” when “Cox customers were without CSN+.”

While on the phone, I asked Fitzpatick to send me a statement by email, which he did: “Comcast SportsNet makes 100% of our Caps and Wizards games available to Verizon FiOS, as we do to all of our distribution partners. However because of a Verizon technical matter, FiOS customers in certain Maryland and Virginia markets are unable to see Comcast SportsNet’s Capitals and Wizards games on the “plus” channel when the other team appears on the primary Comcast SportsNet channel. For further information fans should contact Verizon directly at 888-553-1555.”

A short while later, I got a response from a member of the Verizon public relations team to an email I’d sent them earlier in the day.

Heather Wilner, Manager, Media Relations for Verizon said in her email to me, “We continue to work on making CSN+ content available to customers in the parts of the D.C. area that do not get our FiOS1 channel, which is currently the only place FiOS customers can watch these games. We are working with Comcast to make this happen, but, unfortunately, it’s unlikely it will happen this season. We continue to offer a lot of other hockey content available on other channels, including games airing on local channels, CSN on channels 76 and 576 (HD), Versus on channels 90 and 590 (HD) and the NHL Network on channels 87 and 587(HD). And we hope to be able to get you all of the Caps games in the future.”

What I want to know is, what does Verizon mean when they say they are “working with Comcast” to resolve the issue and what exactly is the issue? What is the “Verizon technical matter” mentioned in the Comcast statement?

Quite simply, why can someone in Montgomery County, for example, watch CSN+ on Verizon Fios channel 1, but then someone just up the road in a neighboring county or another part of the region can not?

Is the fiber Verizon put in the ground in one county different from the fiber they laid in another county? Is it a capacity or bandwidth issue? Is it a contractual issue? Is it money-related?

I hope Verizon does get their customers “all of the Caps games in the future,” but I want to know what’s preventing them from giving all their customers CSN+ right now. That’s the answer I want, so we can figure out if there’s anything that can be done to fix the problem.

Until I get a better answer, I plan to do something many cable companies are quite familiar with—more digging.

Note: I realize the Caps are not the only team affected by this issue with FiOS and CSN+. There are times when the Caps are on CSN and the Wizards or college games, for example, are on CSN+, and some fans of those teams are unable to watch their games through FiOS. I focused on how this relates to the Caps when I wrote that story Wednesday, because that’s what I was plugged into as a big Caps fan. But if this gets resolved with FiOS, fans of many teams could benefit.