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Fiber Cut Cripples Midtown Manhattan

Thousands go without service after Verizon loses a fiber optic cable serving 15,000 phone lines

May 1, 2002

2 Min Read
Fiber Cut Cripples Midtown Manhattan

Thousands of people in midtown Manhattan had to go without phone service today after what the police call a “construction incident” cut through fiber optic telecom cables yesterday evening.

The disruption happened around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday (April 30) when a construction team working on E.58th Street bored through about 17 Verizon underground cables, according to John Bonomo, a spokesperson for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). The damaged fiber cables carry capacity for about 15,000 individual phone lines. The police received reports of the incident at about 10 p.m. last night.

Repairs on the lines could last through the early part of the weekend, Bonomo says, although he optimistically points out that some service will return gradually as the repair work goes forward.

“This will take around-the-clock work,” Bonomo says. “Re-splicing cables is very labor intensive. You actually have to re-splice all the lines on each cable.”

A portion of 58th Street between Third and Lexington Avenues will be closed while Verizon and ConEdison Inc. complete the repair work on the site. Because such a large area has been affected, an NYPD task force and the New York City Office of Emergency Management are also present to help keep the situation under control.

Until the repairs have been completed, Verizon is supplying mobile telephones for emergency use, the police say.

According to Bonomo, phone cables get cut all the time, especially in the springtime when there are a lot of construction projects going on. However, he says, a disruption of this magnitude is rare. This is because there’s a hotline people are supposed to call if they are planning to dig a hole anywhere. “After security, knowing where the utilities are should be your greatest priority,” he says. “I can’t say whether [they made the call] in this case.”

So, how do you know if your phone line has been affected? Bonomo says it’s fairly simple. “If the telephone service is on the cables that were cut,” he says, people trying to use them "are just getting dead air.” [Ed. note: Well, duh!]

Light Reading made numerous calls this afternoon and was met with air in many places, along with busy-tones and error messages. Calls to at least 20 businesses in the affected area between E.57th Street and E.65th Street, and between Third and Fifth Avenues, could not be completed. A few places that still had phone service complained that they weren’t getting through to the places they were trying to call. Bloomingdales, which is located in the affected area, claims not to have noticed any disruptions on its lines today.

— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Light Reading

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