North American Network Operators Group

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  • From: blitz
  • Date: Sat Jan 04 20:56:05 2003

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


  A fiber-optic line break cut off the southern Oregon coast from the
rest of the world for much of

  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

  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

  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

  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

  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

  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.