Cable, copper thieves severed fiber-optic line
By Reggie Ellis
EXETER – Exeter businesses were cut off from customers earlier this month, but it was vandals who did the cutting and not upgrades by a local telecommunications company.
Javier Mendoza, vice president of corporate communications and external affairs for Frontier Communications, said the interruption in phone and internet services in Exeter on Aug. 2 was the result of vandals severing a fiber-optic cable in Visalia in order to steal cable and copper in the early morning hours. It took the company more than 12 hours to repair the damage caused by the vandals which disrupted service to nearby cell towers, affecting cell phone service to carriers on Frontier’s network.
Frontier crews worked non-stop to remove the damaged line, replace conduit, install 1,300 feet of new fiber-optic cable and splice connections. Service was restored by approximately 7:30 p.m.
“Frontier thanks our customers and the communities we serve for their patience as we worked to repair the damage and restore their services,” said Joe Gamble, Frontier’s Senior Vice President for the West Region. “Cable and copper theft is a criminal act that affects customers who depend on their telephone and broadband service. We ask the communities’ assistance in reporting suspicious activity or providing any information that may help us and local authorities identify those responsible.”
Frontier has filed a report with law enforcement officials and encourages anyone with information related to vandalism or theft to call the company toll-free at 1-800-590-6605 and report information anonymously.
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.
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. 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.
Paula Marvin, owner of Rosemary & 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Some customers claimed they had intermittent service throughout the week leading up to Aug. 2 but Frontier said they only showed a disruption in service on that Friday.
“The vandalism damage that disrupted service was restored the same day and no other issues have been reported,” Gamble added. “Frontier records do not support reports of a weeklong outage in Exeter.”