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Widespread Effects

The outage affected both landlines and cellular service for various AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Above Net customers. Local police joined repair crews at the scene of the first four severed cables, and reported that there was evidence that someone had removed the manhole cover and severed the cables. Telephone personnel indicated that this damage would have required a special tool. Hours later, authorities found three other locations where fiber-optic cables were similarly cut. Police said the incidents were related and the locations were being treated as crime scenes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation indicated that, while the sabotage acts were criminal, there was no evidence of terrorism.

Many people in the most recent outage were shocked by the fact that the sabotage affected not only traditional "wireline" phone service but also wireless phones, pagers, and Internet service. (Verizon officials said that 36 cell sites went down.) The outage also didn't discriminate in many cases between lines owned by AT&T (formerly Pacific Bell) and the other incumbent for the area, Verizon (formerly GTE). The outage initially affected a number of wireless phones, Internet service providers (ISPs), and about 50,000 Verizon lines. Even though the targeted cable was owned by AT&T, portions of its spectrum were leased to Verizon. Wireless phone networks that were affected included but were not limited to Verizon, Nextel, Sprint, and some AT&T customers.

Was the union involved in this sabotage effort? A national spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of America (CWA) was asked if the sabotage had anything to with the contract negotiations between AT&T and the CWA. Her reply in the papers was "Absolutely not. Our members are not involved in this." And even though AT&T's contract with the CWA expired two days after the incident, an AT&T spokesman was quoted as saying, "We have a really good relationship with the union," going on to say that negotiations continued between the two sides. Indeed, CWA stated that it would cooperate with the investigation.

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