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Exeter businesses cut off from customers last week

Exeter businesses cut off from customers last week

Frontier customers with 592 phone numbers could not call out or receive calls or access the internet for portions of last week and all of Friday, Aug. 2

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

EXETER – Exeter commerce came to a grinding halt last week after vandals severed a local telecommunications company’s fiber optic line.

Customers living in the 592 phone prefix using Frontier Communications for telephone and Internet lost service completely for 12 hours on Friday, Aug. 2. Even more frustrating for local businesses was the message to customers that their business telephones had been disconnected. Frontier Communications said the line was damaged in the early morning hours and crews worked throughout the day to repair 1,300 feet of cable. Services were restored by 7:30 p.m. that night.

Exeter’s other hardline phone and Internet provider also confirmed it was nothing on their end.

“Our engineers are not aware of any phone or Internet issue affecting Spectrum customers,” said Bret Picciolo, senior director of communications for the Northwest Region of Charter Communications, which operates Spectrum for businesses in the area.

Sherri Forcum, owner of Whistle Stop Diner, said she lost about half of her business for the day on Aug. 2 because she was unable to process credit cards for walk-in customers and couldn’t even receive phone calls for take-out orders. It would have been a huge hit for the business on any weekday, but Whistle Stop especially felt the loss on Friday, when they serve fish and chips. Forcum said a lot of customers who normally phone in lunch orders drove down to the business because they wanted to know why the diner’s phone had been disconnected.

“I didn’t know what they were talking about until I realized the phone had hardly rang,” Forcum said.

One of the walk-in customers happened to be Johnny Gamel, a regional sales manager for Spectrum, Exeter’s other fiberoptic phone and internet carrier, who asked Forcum who her carrier was.

“It’s Frontier,” Forcum said. “But not for long.”

Paula Marvin, owner of Rosemary and Thyme in Exeter, said the interruption affected half of her business as well, the phone half. She said her business uses Frontier for her phone but a separate service for its internet access. The security cameras, the credit card machine, and point of sale stations were all working but customers could not call for information such as hours of operation or whether or not items were in stock.

“I remember being able to call out at around 10 a.m. but not in the afternoon,” Marvin said. “And even then I’m not sure who has what service.”

Marvin, whose home phone is also through Frontier, said she was able to call between her home and the store, but could not make calls to non-Frontier customers and could not receive calls from non-Frontier customers.

“When you call out, it gives you a busy signal, and when people call in it says the number has been disconnected or is no longer in service,” Marvin said.

The Exeter Chamber of Commerce fielded complaints from consumers throughout the day because they had access to phone and Internet. Sarah Tyler with the chamber said they use wireless carrier Oacy’s in Porterville for all of their phone and internet. Tyler said she had received reports that several businesses, like Bank of America, had closed for the day on Friday, and others were turning away business because they were unable to process credit cards, such as Save Mart.

“At the Mural Gallery, we’re able to pick up and get a dial tone but the moment you called it told you the number was disconnected,” Tyler said. “A lot of businesses and a lot of residents were really frustrated.”

Exeter City Manager Adam Ennis said none of the City’s services were affected by the Frontier fritz except for one. The City’s phone and internet access is provided by Vast Networks, which operates a fiber optic network for public agencies that is five to 10 times faster than traditional DSL and Broadband internet. The only service the City still uses a traditional landline for is a call box at the front door of the Exeter Police Department. Ennis said the push button box dials 911 for those who do not have access to a cell phone if they are in the downtown area. The emergency feature is disconnected when the landline is not responding.

The service outage forced Bank of America to close multiple days including its ATM, as most banks use the internet to connect to a database for account information. The outage forced many people to drive to Visalia, where banks have other options for internet and phone service, or Lindsay, where Frontier customers did not report any interruptions in their service. A sign on the door and ATM screen read: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are temporarily closed. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

-This article was updated at 2:00 p.m. PST on Aug. 13, 2019.

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