Cut line shuts down cell, Internet services
By Emma Breysse, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
July 14, 2012
A cut fiber optic line disconnected three Wyoming counties, including Teton County, from much of the digital world Friday.
From around noon until 4:30 p.m., residents of Teton, Sublette and Lincoln counties who rely on Verizon, Silverstar, Union Wireless and Wyoming.com for phone or Internet were without those services. Teton County residents also could not make long-distance calls; local and emergency connections still worked.
“The infrastructure in the Rocky Mountain West doesn’t have much redundancy built in,” Teton County Emergency Manager Rich Ochs said. “It only takes one accident to knock out large portions of the state. I can’t even reach my counterpart in Lincoln County.”
Local services were hobbled or knocked out in Lincoln and Sublette counties, he said.
AT&T customers were unaffected by the outage because the company doesn’t rely on fiber optic systems, Ochs said.
Ochs said he didn’t know where the cut line was located or what caused the break. CenturyLink crews spliced the line to restore services just before 5 p.m., he said.
For businesses and government agencies, the outage was a surprise and a hindrance to operations.
County and state agencies were without Internet service, stalling everything from license sales to access to public records at the Teton County Courthouse.
At Hole Family Eyecare, the outage all but shut down communication with patients.
“It’s been really hard not being able to get ahold of patients,” receptionist Mary Smith said. “When something like this happens you really are kind of fumbling around.”
The office relied on a single staff member with AT&T cellphone service to communicate with the lab that handles its lens orders, Smith said.
At the same time, Hole Family was one of several businesses in town unable to run credit and debit cards. Banks all over Jackson had no Internet, blocking credit and debit purchases.
Kmart and Staples office supply store also were without working credit card machines.
Wyoming Inn at Jackson was able to run credit cards, but unable to take new reservations for rooms or for dinner at the restaurant.
“We couldn’t make or receive long distance calls, which means we couldn’t take reservations,” receptionist Emily Blazier said. “Basically it’ll decrease our business for the night.”
The hotel’s 1-800 number and its local number were both out during the outage, hotel supervisor Dustin Dudas said.
CenturyLink representatives did not respond to phone calls Friday afternoon.