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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Thursday, September 04, 2003


Washington State: Sabotaged fiber cable isolates 60,000 subscribers

Where's the redundancy??!!

Two years ago, during the same month as the World Trade Center attacks, someone cut a key Qwest fiber cable in the Bellingham area, dropping 911 services and blacking out phone service to tens of thousands. Qwest pledged to quickly make their system redundant.

Well, someone's gone and cut the fiber cable again and, once again, Belllingham area telecommunications (including vital 911 service) are shut down. Qwest never met their commitment.

Is this teenage vandalism or something more sinister -- like terrorists? Qwest may not be concerned, but the FBI's taking it seriously, as are the banks that were forced to close, all the off-duty police called in and just about everybody else in the community.

By the mid-1990s, the technology had become so pervasive and inexpensive that most telecom planners just took it for granted that fiber networks would be built with diverse routing and designed to be self-healing in the event of a fiber cable cut. It's certainly the way we've designed networks for our utility customer.

We don't expect every little tentacle of a fiber network to be redundant -- for instance, we don't usually design redundancy in fiber spurs to municipal sewer lift stations -- but for anything that's at all important or that might effect public safety, we always design in redundancy. We though everyone else did, too.

"PHONES GO SILENT: Thousands lose phone service; sabotage is suspected"

"Bellingham phone outage intentional, police say"

"UPDATE: Bellingham Phone Outage Cause Intentional"

Meanwhile, Qwest's hired PR flacks have been busy trying to convince Washington residents it's a bad idea for their publicly owned utilities to build their own fiber networks.


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