By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
A cut fiber optic cable and muddy conditions left eastern New Mexico citizens with compromised Internet and long distance service for more than nine hours Monday.
The buried fiber optic cable, no wider than a strand of hair, was accidentally cut in downtown Roswell around 11 a.m. by workers from a gas company, according to Qwest Public Relations Officer Vince Hancock.
Qwest employees were unable to repair the fiber optics cable expeditiously due to muddy conditions from recent rains, Hancock said.
“(Fiber optic cables) are contained within conduit pipes. When it’s muddy, it makes the job a lot harder” because mud can enter the pipes, Hancock said.
“We pretty quickly rewired the traffic, however not all of the traffic could be re-routed. We didn’t have the same capacity and could handle fewer calls,” Hancock said.
That’s why many Clovis residents were greeted by a pre-recorded operator’s voice when attempting to make long distance calls for hours Monday.
The compromised line left Clovis resident Gloria Wicker wondering about the safety of her son. Wicker said her son was scheduled to visit Clovis from Riudoso but never showed up, and she was left for hours not knowing his whereabouts because she could not reach him on his cell phone.
“It was upsetting. I was worried about my son. Sometimes a message said ‘all circuits are busy.’ Sometimes there was just a busy signal,” Wicker said.
The cut cable affected ENMR-Plateau long distance service and DSL Internet connections, as well, ENMR-Plateau employees said.
Though Qwest employees weren’t sure exactly how many people were affected by the cable cut, one repair man said it “was quite a few.”
Fiber optic cables are no more at risk of being cut than traditional copper cables, Hancock said.
“Cable cuts happen all the time for a variety of reasons. Fiber optic cables are buried within several layers of conduit, and if anything, are more protected than copper cables,” Hancock said.