Phone disconnect region wide : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

From todays Seattle Post Intlligencer.

Phone users suffer a region-wide disconnect

Friday, September 3, 1999


For a lot of people in Washington, yesterday was a bad day to make a phone call.

US West reported that 330,000 customers in four states, including Washington, were blocked from making long-distance and operator calls between 9:40 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

AT&T said a malfunctioning switch fouled up local service for 27 minutes yesterday morning to its business customers in the Seattle metropolitan area and elsewhere in the region.

Yesterday and Wednesday, US West customers in Ocean Shores weren't able to make calls, including 911 calls, because of problems with a microwave tower. US West's long-distance problem happened when a company drilling underneath Interstate 70 in Aurora, Colo., hit the fiber optic cable of Touch America, a wholesale provider of fiber optic services, said Cort Freeman, a Touch America spokesman.

That accident cut off service to US West customers in Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington, said company spokeswoman Lynn Espinoza. However, US West customers who had AT&T as their long distance providers were not affected by the outage, she said.

But AT&T had its own problems yesterday.

The company was reluctant to acknowledge the geographic scope of the breakdown. Dave Johnson, a spokesman at AT&T's network operations center in Bedminister, N.J., initially referred to the problem as "a little blip with local services" and said it affected only a small area near lower Queen Anne.

But when told there had also been problems reported in Federal Way, Johnson said the breakdown had affected "mainly metropolitan Seattle with a little runover into the 253, 360 and 425 area codes."

AT&T provides local service to few, if any, residential customers in the state, Johnson said.

The switch, which routes telephone calls, failed at 9:10 a.m. The problem was resolved at 9:37 a.m., Johnson said.

Johnson initially said the failure would not have affected Internet service, but later said it affected Internet service to some, but not all, business customers.

The problem meant customers could not place a call or get connected with the long distance network, he said.

The Ocean Shores microwave tower has had ongoing problems, Espinoza said. The company believes that it has to do with summer tidal conditions and the sun that cause a "solar disruption" to the tower.

US West is mulling various possible solutions, including moving the microwave dish 30 to 100 feet higher, "tweaking the dish and the frequency," or boosting the power.

Espinoza said Wednesday's outage lasted an hour and a half, while yesterday's was only 27 seconds. However, it is still serious because it affected 911 calls, she said.

P-I reporter Jane Hadley can be reached at 206-448-8362 or

-- Martin Thompson (, September 03, 1999


This Dave Johnson needs to take a crash course in spin control!

-- amy (, September 03, 1999.

Just wanted to report that our phone lines were down for several hours yesterday here in South Eastern Iowa. We were told that a line had been cut and it could take as much as 24 hours to fix, but it only took about 4 hours.

Interesting. Related? Unrelated? Don't know.

-- phoneless (, September 03, 1999.

You guys are pretty great showing how we have infrastructure problems every day and somehow figure out how to fix them.

-- Cherri (, September 03, 1999.

"You guys are pretty great showing how we have infrastructure problems every day and somehow figure out how to fix them."

Yeah, they are... wonder what will happen when more "infrastructure problems" -- orders of magnitude more -- happen roughly simultaneously? Got any more sarcasm, Cherrie? (Dumb question... of course you do.)


-- Devilish Advocate (, September 04, 1999.

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