Fiber Cut: Thousands face large-scale fiber optic internet outage lasting for days in Cache County
Sep 22, 2023, 8:09 PM | Updated: Sep 29, 2023, 4:07 pm
LOGAN, Utah — Just days before school began in Northern Utah, the Cache County School District’s phone lines went dead, along with their high-speed internet. There was no explanation for the outage or any assurance when service would be restored. Slowly, the district learned the outage wasn’t just them.
Turns out, a construction company had cut through 1,300 communication cables while boring into a road in Logan, causing a two-day broadband internet outage.
The large-scale fiber optic Internet outage affected residential customers, home-businesses, city and county government offices and even the largest meat supplier in the nation, JBS Foods.
Jenda Nye, Director of Communications for the Cache County School District, said around 1 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21 seven schools had no internet service. By Tuesday, nearly half of the 25 schools in the valley were offline.
Nye said the school district is part of the Utah Education and Telehealth Network.
“Those are currently provided by either Lumen/Century Link, Utopia, or Xfinity,” Nye said. “Lumen fiber lines currently make up the greatest number of those connections.”
On Aug. 21, the district’s technology team got an alert that schools were “starting to lose connection,” she said.
“They (schools) were scrambling,” Nye said of the unexpected outage. “We were all trying to find ways to accommodate not having internet or phones.”
Parents were driving to the school to register their children for classes, because they couldn’t get a hold of them on the phone or online, Nye said.
“On the days that it was out, it impacted them (the schools) because we use our internet programs for registration, scheduling, collecting fees, all of that stuff, so it made it a little trickier for our school secretaries and staff to get prepared for school,” Nye said.
The Cache County Sheriff’s office said initially it didn’t know what was going on, because it had Internet, but slowly they were hearing dispatch calls indicating cellular phone services and Internet weren’t working south of Logan City.
Lewis Painter with Great Western Recreation, a mountain west park and playground equipment supply company, said his business, located in Logan, “was impacted by the outage in lost wages and work opportunities.”
Painter’s company designs playgrounds for schools and cities across the United States.
“We rely heavily on email and web-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software for our daily activity management and quoting system,” Painter told KSL TV.
“We have not been offered any compensation for the interruption in service over two days.”
The outage affected the entire south end of Cache County, including cellular data phone towers and service with Verizon and T-Mobile.
Residents flocked to social media to commiserate or find out what was going on. No one seemed to know what or where it happened (including several city and county government offices) other than they had heard “a fiber line got cut.”
How It Happened:
KSL TV requested permit records from Logan City and found out C & C Doing It Right Construction was issued a permit on Aug. 4 to install conduit from Center Street in downtown Logan for a new building construction project at 72 E Center Street. The bore path went from the new construction site, through an alley, across the street and south for about a block.
At some point in the process, the contractor doing the boring hit a fiber line and caused the outage. About 1,300 cables were damaged in the process, according to information supplied by a supervisor to the affected fiber companies.
The next day, another company submitted an emergency request to Logan City for a Work in the Right of Way permit to repair damage at 19 S. 100 E.
Since the damage happened in a roadway, repair crews as well as traffic control had to be dispatched to the area to allow crews to make the estimated 36-hour repair safely.
Customers with Lumen, Formerly CenturyLink, and Comcast reported broadband internet issues with service Aug. 21, 22. A number of residents living in the south end of the valley reported on social media that cellular phone service worked in Logan, but when they went south the service went out. In the end, crews worked around the clock and were able to splice all cables within 28 hours.
Even though service was restored, some cities, including Nibley and Hyrum, reported having ongoing bandwidth issues.
KSL contacted the two largest broadband providers in the valley, Comcast and Lumen and asked how many customers were affected by the outage and if it planned on prorating customers’ bills for the days broadband Internet was out?
Comcast only responded that it “was not a Comcast outage.”
A spokesperson for Lumen verified the cause of the outage was due to a fiber optic line being cut by a construction company in the area.
“We know any outage is frustrating, and this one is no exception,” Lumen spokesperson, Mark Molzen told KSL in an email. “For customers who would like to discuss this in more detail, please contact your account team.”
Molzen also advised customers to manually reset their modems and if they continued to experience issues to contact them.
A local Internet company, Blue Spring Broadband reported it had 1,500 customers affected by the outage. Initially, Blue Spring had no way to communicate the outage to its customers because its mail server had no connection to the internet, so they took to social media to keep customers informed in real-time.
“For that reason we continually posted updates to our Facebook page and responded to emails as quickly as possible,” Blue Spring reported to other fiber companies in the area. “We also posted pictures of the damage as they were related to us.”
Many others were left in the dark with no acknowledgement of the outage from the provider to its customers.
Some fiber companies did not experience an outage for its customers because of redundancy, meaning they had multiple sources of fiber to their hub.
Kim McKinley, Chief Marketing Officer for UTOPIA, which provides fiber-to-the-home services in more than 50 Utah cities, including several in Cache County, confirmed that it was a Lumen link that went down.
“UTOPIA had redundancy,” McKinley said. “That seemed to work this time. Nothing went down or customers were down at that time.”
Jake Olsen with Wi-Fiber said UTOPIA, First Digital, Lumen, Comcast got cut in the outage.
“I know those four got hit,” Olsen said.
Wi-Fiber, also locally ran in Cache County, reported no service disruptions due to redundancy in fiber lines. It uses a combination of fiber optic, high capacity microwave, and last mile Wi-Fi technology to deliver reliable Internet service.
Olsen said companies lost a lot of money because of this outage, but services that have redundant fiber “it will keep you up and functional.”
This outage happened with professionals having proper permitting and utility lines marked, however, city officials say it is a good reminder to residents as they are preparing for fall by clearing out sprinkler lines, planting bulbs, or putting in fences to call 811 before they dig to avoid any unnecessary mistake.
C&C Doing It Right Construction, based in Provo, Utah, did not respond to phone and email requests for comment.