Vandals blamed for phone and Internet outage

Police say vandals cut fiber-optic cables in the heart of the Valley early Thursday, disrupting phone and broadband service for thousands of customers.

Update 2:58 p.m. PDT: This story has been updated with information about what caused the massive phone and Internet outage in Silicon Valley on Thursday. Comments from Sprint Nextel have also been added.

Vandals are to blame for the massive phone and Internet outage in Silicon Valley on Thursday, an AT&T representative has confirmed.

A story published by the San Francisco Chronicle and carried on SFGate.com first reported that police confirmed the phone and Internet outage that has left thousands of customers in the San Jose, Calif., area without phone or broadband Internet service was caused by vandals who had cut fiber-optic cables.

Police told the newspaper that four AT&T fiber-optic cables were severed shortly before 1:30 a.m. PDT along Monterey Highway north of Blossom Hill Road in South San Jose. A cable in San Carlos, Calif., owned by Sprint Nextel was also cut about two hours later, Crystal Davis, a Sprint spokeswoman confirmed.

Davis said that a manhole cover had been lifted, and the fiber underground had been cut. She confirmed that the Sprint fiber that was cut also appeared to be the work of vandals. But she explained that fiber cuts happen all the time, typically due to an accident.

"Fiber cuts happen more often than people think," she said. "Usually it happens accidentally when someone is drilling in the ground, landscaping a lawn or repairing some other infrastructure in the ground. We know this happens all the time, so we're ready to reroute traffic whenever we have to."

Earlier AT&T confirmed the incident and said it's working to resolve the problem. The company added that in addition to repairing the cut cables, it's also looking for alternative options to reroute traffic and get customers back online. And the company expects service to be restored in the new few hours.

"We are aware of a cable cut situation impacting services in Santa Clara and San Jose areas," a company spokesman said an e-mail. "We have crews on the scene. More details and repair ETAs will be shared as soon as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience this morning's service outage has caused."

The company spokesman also said AT&T is working with law enforcement officials to find who vandalized the cables. The company declined to comment further on how vandals were able to gain access to its cable infrastructure.

The fiber outage is affecting service for customers of AT&T and Verizon Wireless and Verizon broadband customers. Verizon uses AT&T's fiber-optic lines to connect its wireless and DSL service to the phone company's own national network. So a disruption in AT&T's fiber link also affects Verizon's service.

A source close to Verizon said the phone company has its own technicians on site to help AT&T repair the cut fiber as quickly as possible.

Sprint's Davis said that the Sprint fiber that had been cut was used to carry traffic for Sprint's IP data customers, most of whom are business users. Sprint was able to reroute the traffic and have service restored to most of its customers before business hours this morning.

But like Verizon Wireless, Sprint also uses AT&T's network to carry its so-called "backhaul" wireless traffic from its cell towers to its own national network. As a result, the AT&T fiber cut has also interrupted service for thousands of Sprint wireless customers.

Davis said the company is working closely with AT&T to get service restored as soon as possible. But the company is also considering deploying mobile cell towers or cell-on-wheels units that will provide temporary service to Sprint's wireless customers.

"We have resources that can provide supplemental service staged around the area that has been affected by the outage," she said. "But we are waiting to hear from the local exchange carrier (AT&T) about when they think service will be restored."

Davis said Sprint will likely decide whether to use mobile cell stations in the next three to four hours.

AT&T hasn't provided any additional information about when it expects to get service working again. The last update the company provided over its Twitter feed, ATTNews was posted more than three hours ago and said: "Our priority is to restore service to all affected customers as soon as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience."

At least one company affected by the outage has said it's back in business. VerticalResponse, a San Francisco-based company that uses an ISP whose servers are collocated in Palo Alto, Calif., said its servers went back online around 12:30 p.m. PDT. The company, which works with about 56,000 small business customers to distribute direct e-mail marketing campaigns, has been keeping customers up-to-date using its Twitter feed VerticalResponse.

"Our systems have been restored and delayed campaigns are in the process of being sent. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience," the company's latest update reads.

A report earlier Thursday from KTVU-TV in Northern California said the service outage is affecting customers in southern Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties. A dispatcher in Santa Clara County told the TV station that the line was knocked out at 2 a.m. PDT.

 

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