Reason for Recent Preston Cable Network Outages
Reason for Recent Preston Cable Network Outages
Thursday, September 08, 2016
Direct Communications stands with our customers in expressing frustration over the recent Internet outages in the south side of Preston. Unfortunately, cable service was interrupted by factors out of our control, when a state highway contractor cut our buried cable lines twice within a week.
On Monday, August 29, a contractor for the Idaho Transportation Department, which is currently replacing the sidewalks along Main Street in Preston, cut a buried coaxial cable line at the corner of Fourth South and First East in Preston, which caused 160 modems to lose Internet service. It should be noted that this was part of the coaxial cable plant, and not a fiber line. Fiber customers were not affected by the cut. Also, since our network is separated into several separate nodes, this only affected the 160 cable Internet customers on that node, which node is located on Fourth South. When the state contractor cut our line, this was a fixable problem, but the more serious consequence was that the cut also caused an electrical short in the line, which caused additional issues up and down the line with various sensitive electronic equipment. The short and resulting damaged electronics was why we had problems the rest of that week, while our techs were trying to find all the various equipment and places that were damaged by the cut.
By the end of the week, we had restored all customer services, and the network looked good, but were shocked when on Tuesday, September 6, the same state contractor carelessly dug up our line again with a backhoe. This time they cut two lines, both a main trunk line and a distribution line, which were both completely cut in half.
The first time the line was cut, the state contractor had called in a locate to dig line as per legal requirement when digging around buried public utilities. Directcom techs followed procedure and duly marked our buried cable line with orange paint on the sidewalk. However, it appears the highway contractor didn’t pay attention and ignored the lines. While the road crew was setting concrete frames to pour new sidewalk, one of the workers pounded a concrete spike right through our marked buried cable. Our cable was about 15 inches underground, and could have easily been avoided. The second time the contractor cut our cable, they had not followed procedure and did not have a legal locate called in, however, the orange marks were still there from the week before, but again they obviously didn’t pay attention, and they cut our cable again, this time with a backhoe, while they were digging up the asphalt. This was in the same area as the first cut, although the first cut occurred on the west side of the sidewalk, and the second time on the east side of the sidewalk.
On both occasions, the cut affected the same 160 customers on the same node on Fourth South. Geographically this is all cable customers south of 2nd South on the east side of town and Fourth South on the west side, except for the fiber customers, so the anchor institutions like the schools and hospitals were not affected. Businesses subscribing to fiber were not affected. Typically, our fiber lines are buried 4 feet deep along public easements, which results in less issues when road crews are out working on projects like the state road project going on right now in Preston. Although some residents have speculated that it was a city road crew working on the sidewalks, this is a state project, being done by contractors for the Idaho Transportation Department. This is state maintained curbing and sidewalk, within state easements.
Will There Be Any More Outages Due To Cut Cable?
Since this state road and sidewalk project in Preston will be ongoing for at least a few more weeks, we plead with all contractors working on the sidewalks and curbing, to call in legal locates to the state digline number, and to follow procedures when digging to make sure they don’t hit buried cable network or other public utilities. Simply put, road contractors need to be more careful to avoid this happening again in the future. The Internet has now become as important a service to residents as power and water, and we know that many residents and businesses in Preston rely on our Internet service for their livelihood, entertainment and connection to friends and family. It’s a big deal when the Internet goes down.
How Long Did It Take Directcom To Respond To The Cut?
Direct Communications techs responded immediately to the cut on both occasions. On the first day, the 29th August, we had customers back online within three or four hours, by the time we figured out where the cut was and dispatched crews and equipment to repair the cable. On September 6, where two cables were cut, including the trunk line, customers were down all day from the time of the cut at 8 AM, until we finished repairs to the cable by 5 PM that evening.
What Did We Have To Do To Restore Service?
The first time was simply a matter of digging up and exposing the damaged cable, then cutting out the bad piece and splicing in new cable. However, afterwards we were fighting the shorted equipment problem all week long. These are trunk amps, our main devices which control the signals throughout the network distribution. We replaced trunk amps, line extenders, all of which took a lot of labor, especially while troubleshooting, to get the signals back up to normal. Customers should know that we responded as quickly as we could, and worked continuously to restore service all week. Our techs were out till after midnight working in the dark several nights that week troubleshooting equipment. We worked on it every day all day until we were satisfied that service was fully restored to all customers.
After the more serious line cut on Sep 6th, we had to completely install new cable under the road on first East. Luckily there was already conduit there, but we still have to dig up the conduit, repair the damaged conduit, and pull the new copper lines through, which took all day. Our techs pulled about 200 feet of new cable underneath first East.
Is Everything Now Back To Normal?
As of right now, everything appears to be running fine, but due to the electrical short it’s difficult to know if there’s any other damaged equipment in that part of the network. People who are still having any kind of trouble should let us know immediately—the more people who call in to us know that there’s an issue, the easier it is for us to identify exactly which equipment might still be having trouble.
On the afternoon of 8 September we still need to get a new piece of cable underneath the brand-new sidewalk the state contractor poured, which will result in the 20 minute outage in the afternoon.
Special thanks to Operations Manager, Justin Bruce, for his contribution to this article, and especially for his tireless work in getting service restored in Preston. Thanks also to our local cable techs in the area, Kyle Thomas and Dan Greenup, for going the extra mile, and working late many nights last week to get customers Internet service working again.