Phone, internet outage affects 13,000 in northeast Wyoming

 

All phone and internet services that were out Thursday in Campbell, Crook and Weston counties are up and running again after Rocky Mountain Power repaired the fiber optic cable it cut about four miles north of Casper.

RT Communications owns the cable that was cut and leases it to CenturyLink, who subsequently leases it to several other companies.

Because so many companies use the cable, the outage affected approximately 13,000 people, said David King, Campbell County Emergency Management coordinator.

In Campbell County, it appears as though AT&T service, county phone lines with Century Link, Collins Internet and Charter-Spectrum TV and Internet were out starting Thursday at about 11 a.m. Some phone service was restored about 5:15 p.m., while internet and TV services remained offline until later Thursday evening.

During the outage, calling 911 did not work in Campbell County. To notify people of the outage, Campbell County Emergency Management sent out a countywide alert that 911 was not working, King said. It is the first time that the county has sent out such an alert since it installed the alert system in 2012.

The county used the alert system to send two messages Thursday. The first message said, “911 is down. Call 307-682-7271.” The message caused confusion and people started calling the provided number, which is the Sheriff’s Office administrative line.

The second message, which was sent a short while later, clarified that the number should only be called in the event of an emergency because 911 was not working, King said.

Because AT&T customers did not have service for most of Thursday, they did not receive the alerts until service returned, creating some confusion and annoyance, King said.

For a short time Thursday morning, cellphones could not call landlines in the affected counties, said city spokesman Geno Palazzari. Cellphones could only reach other cellphones. As such, there was a time when cellphone calls to the Sheriff’s Office administrative number — a landline phone — did not work, King said. In other words, cellphones could not call 911 or the provided back-up emergency line.

In addition to using the administrative numbers for emergencies, later Thursday morning 911 calls from landlines also could be routed through Johnson County and transferred to the Sheriff’s Office, Palazzari said.

During Thursday’s outage, officers were unable to communicate through WyoLink, the method law enforcement uses to communicate with other departments across the state.

As a result of the outage, both the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department experienced lower call volumes than normal, said Sheriff Scott Matheny and Police Sgt. Jason Marcus.

Like law enforcement, the hospital could not communicate about emergency services Thursday, said Campbell County Health spokeswoman Karen Clarke.

Without Collins and Charter-Spectrum working, phone lines that go through the internet, like Campbell County Courthouse, experienced an outage, King said.

Some county websites were down, some local banks could not process requests and credit card machines at businesses also did not work because they rely on Collins or Charter-Spectrum services, Marcus said.

For most of Thursday, the cause of the outage was unclear. RT Communications said that the cable had been cut somewhere between Casper and Midwest. Later Thursday afternoon, King said that the cable had been cut in Crook County. To clear up the confusion, Friday at noon, the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security published a statement that confirmed the cable had been cut four miles north of Casper.

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