Verizon phone and Internet customers throughout north country werent happy campers last Thursday and Friday, but officials say a large-scale service outage caused by a line break in the Syracuse area could spur the company to establish a redundant network that wouldnt be vulnerable to such accidents.
Affecting 20 service areas across upstate New York, last weeks outage originated in the Onondaga County town of Central Square, where a 250-foot section of fiber optic cable and two utility poles taken down in an accident that happened Thursday morning outside a construction site. A large truck moving through the area is thought to have caused the break, but the perpetrator left the scene without reporting the incident.
The assumption is that it was taken down by a truck of some sort, said Verizon spokesman John J. Bonomo, who said workers responded at the scene about 1 p.m. Thursday.
A replacement cable was installed Thursday evening to restore service to the network, Mr. Bonomo said, but it wasnt functioning properly because connections werent being transmitted. It wasnt until about 2:45 p.m. Friday thatanother cable was installed to restore service.
Mr. Bonomo said Verizon was not able to track how many residents lost phone and Internet service in the north country, but the outage affected residents in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.
Mr. Bonomo said Verizon responded the best it could to the incident. Without a redundant system in place which would provide backup lines to maintain service for customers the system will continue to be vulnerable to this kind of accident, he said.
We troubleshoot and trace these problems with our surveillance systems the best we can, he said. Our workers were there throughout the night, and I think our response was exceptional.
Others dont think so. Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, for example, sent a letter to express his concerns to Dierdre K. Scozzafava, deputy secretary of local government at the state Department of State. He cited the potential dangers outages could cause in the letter, such as leaving residents stuck in emergency situations.
In response to customers complaints, the New York Public Service Commission began collecting public comments and documents in 2010 to investigate Verizons service to the region. Spokesman James Denn said theres no timetable on the study, however, and couldnt specify whether the PSC could have the authority to mandate Verizon to improve its infrastructure.
While Mr. Bonomo said that building a redundant network in upstate New York is something Verizon is now looking into, he cited the high cost of doing so in the regions rural area. Most of Verizons redundant networks are in urban areas and population centers where they are easier and less expensive to install.
Our (current) system is neither outdated nor antiquated, he said. It would be a major undertaking to develop a redundant network here, both from a cost and labor standpoint. Additional cables can be easily built in urban areas because of the infrastructure, but you cant do it in this territory.