Thursday, April 09, 2009


A deliberate act of expertise vandalism is now being blamed for the phone system outage that today stifled electronic communication through Santa Cruz and parts of Santa Clara and San Benito Counties along the southern edge of California's Silicon Valley.

Last night, at around 2 AM, cables were cut in several locations throughout the area using specialized equipment:
"... saboteurs had to use a piece of equipment to lift heavy manhole covers and climb down several feet to get to the cables. They would have to have been equipped with heavy-duty cutting equipment to slice through the thick cable coating."
The outage effected most cell phones, many land lines, and much internet traffic in the region. 911 emergency lines could not be reached, and fire departments took to hillside perches to scan the area for smoke or other signs of problems.

The good news is the lack of panic. While stories are now emerging of people frustrated by the situation, and people driving to hospitals who otherwise would have called ambulances, there was no vandalism or crimes reported (yet) as a result. Banks allowed only a customer or two in at a time, issuing hand-written receipts, stores and restaurants hung "cash only" signs on their doors, and life went on as usual. Well, usual for 1975.

My own experience of the day was seeing a headline about the outage early this morning, and not really thinking about it until I got in my car, turned on my bluetooth headset and realized that I had no signal. My first stop was to meet with some people at a coffee shop in Ben Lomond.

That's when I heard more about the outage, but, somehow, their wi-fi was working. Although I couldn't use my personal email because my ISPs server was rejecting connections, I was able to get some messages out through Gmail, and Twitter gave me connections to a few friends.

After that it was on to my client's office. By then phone lines were restored for local service only, but no long distance calls were getting in or out, cell phones were still not working, and the Internet connection was down.

A motive for the sabotage is still unknown, and systems are still not fully functional after nearly 20 hours.

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