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This was in my mailbox, might be old news to you, but a FYI
Coastal area silenced by cable break 01/04/03 Portland Oregonian JEFFREY KOSSEFF A fiber-optic line break cut off the southern Oregon coast from the rest of the world for much of Friday. After a state cleanup crew accidentally tore a CenturyTel fiber-optic cable at 9:30 a.m., residents and businesses from Reedsport to Brookings couldn't make or receive phone calls outside of the area or connect to the Internet. CenturyTel crews fixed the cable just before 5 p.m., spokeswoman Carol Allen said. "I've been dying for my e-mail all day," Joseph Whitsett, mayor-elect of Bandon, said after phone service was restored. Most urban areas have more than one fiber line connecting local phone systems to long-distance networks, but less-populated regions typically depend on one fiber route. The outage demonstrates the need for companies to build multiple lines, creating backup networks, telecommunications experts said. An Oregon Department of Transportation crew clearing debris from a mudslide near Camas Valley on Friday morning cut a cable that connects the south coast to a network hub in Roseburg. Ted Paselk, an ODOT district manager, said before his workers dug along Oregon 42, they gave appropriate notice to a statewide utility hot line that locates underground utilities. They weren't told of the CenturyTel cable, he said. Neither Allen nor Paselk knew who would pay for the repair. "Usually, when a locate is called and they clear us in an area, then we're not paying the bill," Paselk said. Residents along the 135-mile stretch of the coast could call one another, but they could not call outside the area, said Melissa Barran, a spokeswoman for Verizon, the local phone company for most of the south coast region. Verizon connects its 50,000 area phone lines to the long-distance network over CenturyTel's cable. Calls to spots such as North Bend were met with a recorded message: "Due to local telephone company trouble in the area you are calling, your call cannot be completed at this time. Please try your call later." Besides blocking long-distance and Internet access for residents in the region, the outage kept other callers and Internet users from reaching phones or Web sites in the area. Although cell phones don't require wires, long-distance cell-phone use was out because cell towers connect to the long-distance phone network over the CenturyTel cable. Unless residents had costly phone or Internet connections via satellite, they were unable to communicate with the rest of the state, nation and world. "We're just sitting at the mercy of the repair crews," said Joseph Gayer, director of strategic relations at Bend-based Edge Wireless, a rural cell-phone carrier whose 9,000 customers in Coos and Curry counties lost long-distance service as a result of the fiber cut. Such outages have become more common since fiber-optic cable became the main method of transporting long-distance calls over the past decade, Gayer said. Without more than one fiber line in the same area, they will continue, he said. But laying fiber costs money, and many telecom carriers are reeling from fiber-overbuilding in urban areas. The largest investments in redundant loops came from the state's largest local phone company, Qwest Communications International. It spent $70 million on network upgrades, including five redundant fiber-optic loops throughout the state. In exchange for that improvement and investments in school technology, the state deregulated Qwest's profits. "Absent that kind of win-win situation for the company and the state, it makes it very difficult to have a business case (that will) pencil out that says, 'This is a good use of capital dollars," said Judy Peppler, Qwest's president for Oregon. "You're going to have some idle capacity at all times. But on the other hand, you don't have these outages." Qwest has completed construction of three of the fiber rings, and it will finish the other two by October. The backup networks have averted at least two outages in rural areas. "It is obviously very valuable, especially when you have businesses that rely on your network," Peppler said. Irv Emmons, senior telecommunications engineer for the Oregon Public Utility Commission, said before Qwest built a backup network in Eastern Oregon, a farmer in Madras cut the area's main fiber cable a few times a year. "That used to isolate all of Eastern Oregon," Emmons said. Allen of CenturyTel said redundancy is "always of a high priority," but she did not know whether backup networks were in the works for the south coast area.