ATLANTA - Communications Breakdowns Create Business Nightmare : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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BREAKDOWN IN COMMUNICATIONS: Sandy Springs' spaghetti junction

Cut cables create a business nightmare

Tinah Saunders - Staff

Wednesday, June 14, 2000

For nearly a week, businesses in Sandy Springs have been out of touch.

Since Thursday night, when phone lines were cut to 2,400 BellSouth customers, establishments from grocery stores to car repair shops have not been able to use their phones or computers, or even to process credit card charges.

The affected area included much of the Sandy Springs business district and adjacent residential areas. Service was expected to be restored by late today.

Contractors hired by e.spire, a Maryland-based technology company that was installing fiber optic cable, cut into four major telephone cables on Roswell Road just south of 1-285. "This was pretty much a hit-and-run operation," said BellSouth spokesman Bill Getch. "The contractor cut the cables, then picked up its equipment and left. But you can be sure our legal department will be talking with them and we will be billing them."

Peggy Disney, spokeswoman for e.spire, said she did not have any information on the incident and would rather not comment until she contacted the contractor.

Repair has been a tedious process. Teams of 10 have worked 12-hour shifts since Thursday in a 15-foot-deep trench where the cables are located. The work has been slow because the damaged cables are older and are not color-coded like the newer lines. Workers have to send a tone through each line and match it to a similar tone on the other end.

Beth Goldman, an investment counselor, says nearly a week of dead connections has cost her money and business. Her phone service was restored early Tuesday.

Goldman said she resorted to using her cell phone, usually reserved for emergencies, to keep in contact with her clients.

"I was losing money by the minute," she said. "Someone else is going to pay this. I don't know who, but I'm not."

And the trouble for Goldman didn't stop at her own shop. When she went to pick up her car at Eddie's Automotive on Mount Vernon Highway, the garage couldn't take her credit card because the processing requires a phone line.

"I'm a plastic kind of lady, so I had to go home and get my checkbook," she said.

Barbara Prebble of Sandy Springs Revitalization Inc. worked at home Tuesday to prepare the group's electronic newsletter, as the office phones were still out.

The disruption in phone service was the latest in a series of utility interruptions in metro Atlanta caused by contractors installing fiber optic cables. And it likely won't be the last, as companies vie for space in the rights of way, Getch said.

The right of way is a government-owned strip of land about 10 feet wide that runs along either side of a road and contains buried telephone cables, gas lines, water mains and sewer lines.

A utility needing access to a right of way can apply for a permit and must notify the state's Utility Protection Center before digging so existing lines can be marked.

The Sandy Springs phone problem even interfered with motorists. Traffic in the right-hand lane of southbound Roswell Road was backed up past I-285 at noon Tuesday due to the repair work along the right of way.

"I want to hold up a sign and say: 'We didn't do it, we're just fixing it,' " said BellSouth project manager Rick Simpson, as traffic crept up the long hill to Glenridge Road.

-- (, June 14, 2000

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