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Thousands of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Customers in California Lose Connectivity Karishma Sundaram | , 8:10 p.m. April 1, 2009 2009-04-01

In an age where telecommunications has become the backbone for society probably rubbing shoulders with infrastructure, the loss of Internet and mobile capabilities can have a psychologically crippling effect on those forced to endure it. Imagine not having the security of knowing that if something untoward were to happen, there is no way emergency services can be reached. 

Thoughts like those and many more besides must have passed through the minds of the thousands of people in California who found themselves in a predicament. No mobile services, no landline services and, in some case, no wireless services greeted the residents near Silicon Valley. 

According to officials, fibre optic cables that provide these services to various customers were cut. These cables are located approximately 10 feet below the surface, however they can be reached through manholes. The investigative forces are considering this the modus operandi, as the cables, while important to the networks, are not impenetrably protected. All the equipment really required to pull off a stunt like this, is a jimmy tool of sorts to raise the manhole cover and a set of pliers to snip the actual cables. Although it is clear to everyone concerned that the act was deliberate and most probably premeditated, they are leaving the possibility of an accident open as well, as fibre optical cables can be destroyed through a variety of different means.

The companies affected by this wanton act are AT&T and Sprint. Of their five fibre optical cables, four were severed cleanly through. Verizon was also affected as it was leasing one of AT&T’s cables. The company estimated that approximately 52,000 of its customers experienced the outage caused courtesy the vandalism. 

The customers are mostly located in the Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Benito counties of California. The cables supplying network services to these areas ran through San Jose and San Carlos, which is where the authorities are assuming the vandals struck. 

It is as yet unclear as to why someone would cut the cables, and what they would achieve by doing this. Because of this very reason, the police are labelling the incident as vandalism and nothing more. 

AT&T is understandably upset by the entire proceedings, as evidenced by their constant updates on Twitter regarding the incident. The company chose to keep in touch with its customers in this way, hoping to stem the tide of the inevitable fallout that is bound to occur. AT&T has also offered $100,000 as a monetary incentive for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators, perhaps hoping to accelerate the process of justice.

The most serious repercussion of the vandalism is that emergency services ground a virtual halt. Police, fire stations and hospital ambulances rely on 911 calls to reach people in need. The means for the 911 calls being crippled, the calls were just not coming through. The company will also suffer financial losses as a direct result. While a spokesperson for AT&T feels that the damages will be extensive, they are still in the process of determining the full extent. 

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