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Fiber optic line break disrupts phone lines in Nevada

By Donna Donowitz
December 13, 2010
With many regions across the U.S. relying on fiber optic cable to provide their multimedia needs, a single broken cable can cause a major disruption. Three Nevada counties suffered such a setback recently when a broken fiber optic cable in Douglas County caused phone service to cut out in the late morning.

According to Douglas County Sheriff Jim Halsey, contract crews working on a water line project accidentally severed the fiber optic cable at 11:13 a.m. on December 8. The cut immediately affected phone service in the area.

Emergency services and mobile phone connections went down. Landline numbers worked, but attempts to call from mobile phones to landlines or alternative phone carriers failed, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reports.

Lyon County’s 911 system was temporarily shut down. As a result, 911 calls made during the outage were rerouted through Carson City, whose dispatch informed Lyon County Dispatch of any 911 calls via mobile phone and radio transmissions, reports.

Following the outage, Douglas County released a statement. “Work to restore primary communications impacting 911 services has been made a priority,” it read.

The press release also outlined security measures the county was taking to minimize the damaging effects of the 911 outage. “All East Fork and Tahoe Douglas Fire Stations were staffed with additional personnel, as the public was informed to go to the nearest fire station to report any emergencies. Additional law enforcement staff was summoned from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and extra roving patrols were instituted,” it read.

Repair crews from Frontier Communications arrived at the cut cable at approximately 12:50 p.m., Halsey said, and phone service began to come back at about 3 p.m. in the Valley and 6:35 p.m. to northern Douglas County. Some sporadic areas in Douglas County remained without fully functional connectivity for some time after, however.

Accidental fiber optic cuts can pose significant problems for public and emergency services. Recently, an electric utilities company in Scranton, Pennsylvania, cut a fiber optic line that provided services to a hospital. Luckily, patient care was not affected by the outage, although hospital personnel were unable to use the facility’s landlines.


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