Lack of Redundancy
- Coastal area silenced by cable break
01/04/03 Portland Oregonian
A fiber-optic line break cut off the southern Oregon coast from the
rest of the world for much of
After a state cleanup crew accidentally tore a
CenturyTel fiber-optic cable at 9:30 a.m., residents and
businesses from Reedsport to Brookings couldn't make
or receive phone calls outside of the area or connect to
CenturyTel crews fixed the cable just before 5 p.m.,
spokeswoman Carol Allen said.
"I've been dying for my e-mail all day," Joseph Whitsett,
mayor-elect of Bandon, said after phone service was
Most urban areas have more than one fiber line
connecting local phone systems to long-distance
networks, but less-populated regions typically depend
on one fiber route. The outage demonstrates the need
for companies to build multiple lines, creating backup
networks, telecommunications experts said.
An Oregon Department of Transportation crew clearing
debris from a mudslide near Camas Valley on Friday
morning cut a cable that connects the south coast to a network hub in
Ted Paselk, an ODOT district manager, said before his workers dug
along Oregon 42, they gave
appropriate notice to a statewide utility hot line that locates
underground utilities. They weren't told of
the CenturyTel cable, he said.
Neither Allen nor Paselk knew who would pay for the repair.
"Usually, when a locate is called and they clear us in an area, then
we're not paying the bill," Paselk
Residents along the 135-mile stretch of the coast could call one
another, but they could not call
outside the area, said Melissa Barran, a spokeswoman for Verizon, the
local phone company for
most of the south coast region. Verizon connects its 50,000 area phone
lines to the long-distance
network over CenturyTel's cable.
Calls to spots such as North Bend were met with a recorded message:
"Due to local telephone
company trouble in the area you are calling, your call cannot be
completed at this time. Please try
your call later."
Besides blocking long-distance and Internet access for residents in
the region, the outage kept other
callers and Internet users from reaching phones or Web sites in the
Although cell phones don't require wires, long-distance cell-phone use
was out because cell towers
connect to the long-distance phone network over the CenturyTel cable.
Unless residents had costly phone or Internet connections via
satellite, they were unable to
communicate with the rest of the state, nation and world.
"We're just sitting at the mercy of the repair crews," said Joseph
Gayer, director of strategic
relations at Bend-based Edge Wireless, a rural cell-phone carrier
whose 9,000 customers in Coos
and Curry counties lost long-distance service as a result of the fiber
Such outages have become more common since fiber-optic cable became
the main method of
transporting long-distance calls over the past decade, Gayer said.
Without more than one fiber line
in the same area, they will continue, he said.
But laying fiber costs money, and many telecom carriers are reeling
from fiber-overbuilding in urban
areas. The largest investments in redundant loops came from the
state's largest local phone
company, Qwest Communications International. It spent $70 million on
network upgrades, including
five redundant fiber-optic loops throughout the state.
In exchange for that improvement and investments in school technology,
the state deregulated
"Absent that kind of win-win situation for the company and the state,
it makes it very difficult to have
a business case (that will) pencil out that says, 'This is a good use
of capital dollars," said Judy
Peppler, Qwest's president for Oregon. "You're going to have some idle
capacity at all times. But on
the other hand, you don't have these outages."
Qwest has completed construction of three of the fiber rings, and it
will finish the other two by
October. The backup networks have averted at least two outages in
"It is obviously very valuable, especially when you have businesses
that rely on your network,"
Irv Emmons, senior telecommunications engineer for the Oregon Public
Utility Commission, said
before Qwest built a backup network in Eastern Oregon, a farmer in
Madras cut the area's main fiber
cable a few times a year.
"That used to isolate all of Eastern Oregon," Emmons said.
Allen of CenturyTel said redundancy is "always of a high priority,"
but she did not know whether
backup networks were in the works for the south coast area.
- That's definitely a cause for concern and a difficult issue to deal with in
today's deregulated telecom environment, without the "stick" of
government-mandated reliability levels and the corresponding "carrot" of a
guaranteed return on the needed investment.
This particular incident, though, sounds like something which would have
been more-or-less equally probable in the Bell System era. The CenturyTel
cable appears to be what would have been called a toll-connecting and
toll-completing trunk; that is, the interface between the local BOC and the
Long Lines network. The Bell System maps I've seen show many small and
not-so-small towns had only a single link to the long-haul system.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Rosa" <prosa@...>
Sent: Saturday, January 04, 2003 11:19 AM
Subject: [coldwarcomms] Lack of Redundancy
> Coastal area silenced by cable break
> 01/04/03 Portland Oregonian
> JEFFREY KOSSEFF
> A fiber-optic line break cut off the southern Oregon coast from the
> rest of the world for much of
> After a state cleanup crew accidentally tore a
> CenturyTel fiber-optic cable at 9:30 a.m., residents and
> businesses from Reedsport to Brookings couldn't make
> or receive phone calls outside of the area or connect to
> the Internet.