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Mishaps cause small outage

Internet access for surfers in Southern California is disrupted for hours after fiber-optic cable is inadvertently cut by construction crews.

Internet access for more than 1,000 surfers in Southern California was disrupted Friday and today for up to four hours, after fiber-optic cable was inadvertently cut by two different construction crews.

The fiber cable belongs to Teleport Communications Group (TCG), which sells access to its backbone to Internet service providers and phone companies such as Sprint and WorldCom.

The slashing of TCG's Los Angeles to San Diego fiber trunk disabled some ISPs' service Friday from noon to shortly after 4 p.m. Today, another construction-related gash disrupted service from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

"This is an unfortunate accident," said Tracy Corrington, TCG's West Coast spokeswoman. "As part of our investigation into this outage, we are going to find out if the contractors called for cable location maps, which is required before doing any work."

TCG received six calls from telephone companies or ISPs that said their services suffered outages due to the accidents. Sprint said today that none of its customers were impacted because it uses SONet (synchronous optical network) technology throughout the United States, which automatically reroutes traffic if a cable is cut. WorldCom's ISP, UUNet, also reported no problems on its network status page.

But smaller ISPs that don't own access to alternative backbones were hit hard by the outage. Simple Network Communications of San Diego hosts Web pages and sets up email accounts for more than 1,000 customers, all of whom couldn't get online because of the fiber cuts.

SimpleNet gains access to the TCG backbone via ATMNet, which connects businesses and other ISPs to the Internet. All of ATMNet's Southern California customers, which include Sony Online and Quarterdeck, were unable to get online.

"We consider this a major outage," said Tom Lettington, vice president and COO for ATMNet. Lettington would not say how many customers were affected, but he noted the outage had the company's public relations team working overtime.

"We're calling all of our clients and letting them know that we now have plans to make our network more robust and less vulnerable to these types of outages," he added.