By Greg Jordan
WELCH — Thieves seeking copper instead cut down fiber optic cables Thursday, knocking out Internet and telephone service to thousands of customers in McDowell County and Mercer County.
“It’s ridiculous,” Communications Manager Andy Malinoski of Frontier Communications said. “We’ve had a cable theft that has knocked out service to 4,000 of our customers. It was in the Barlow Creek area (in McDowell County.) They stole 12 spans of cable from pole to pole. They were driving a maroon Toyota pickup, and we would like anybody who knows anything to call us or call local authorities.”
Service was lost approximately 3 p.m. Ironically, the thieves stole the wrong cable, Malinoski said.
“It didn’t have any copper in it. They stole the high-speed fiber optic cable that carries all the data back to the Internet,” he said.
The losses were in an area stretching from Welch to Bluefield. Cable thefts both inconvenience and endanger customers who depend on their service, he said.
“These criminal acts affect Frontier Customers who depend on their telephone and broadband to stay in contact with family, friends, and emergency responders,” Malinoski said. “This is a serious and significant theft. We are working with the state police to locate the individuals who have stolen our property. Copper thieves place the safety of the entire community at risk.”
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call 800-590-6605. Crews were working to restore service, and Frontier hoped to have all service back by mid-Friday morning, Malinoski said.
Internet service at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph was restored approximately 5:15 p.m. Malinoski said he could not “100 percent” confirm the cable theft’s had impacted the newspaper, but the thefts had “definitely” impacted the 4,000 customers who lost their connections.
Information from www.bdtonline.com