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Fiber cut hobbles SETI@Home

The servers used to coordinate the search for extraterrestrial intelligence via members' PCs are rendered inaccessible.

    The search for E.T. has been put on hold, apparently by low-tech vandals.

    The servers for SETI@Home, which coordinates the search for extraterrestrial intelligence via members' PCs, have been inaccessible since early Tuesday morning. A note on the University of California at Berkeley Web site blamed the problem on a severed fiber-optic cable.

    "Contractors are pulling new cable now," UC Berkeley representatives said in the note. "It's expected that service will be restored by Friday, 2 March 2001."

    SETI@Home is based at the Space Sciences Lab (SSL) at UC Berkeley.

    The fiber cable apparently was cut by vandals trying to steal a large copper electrical cable nearby, said Cliff Frost, director of communications and network services at UC Berkeley. According to the note on the Web site, the fiber line that was cut carries voice and data traffic not only for SSL and SETI@Home, but also for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

    "There was a lot of fiber that went through there for a lot of different purposes," Frost said. "It's all being repaired."

    A spokesman for Berkeley Laboratory said he didn't know whether the fiber cut affected any critical projects. SSL representatives did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

    SETI@Home distributes radio telescope signals to members' PCs for analysis. The project is one of the most successful examples of distributed computing, with more than 3 million members participating.