Service restored after AT&T fiber cut

AT&T has increased its reward for information on the apparent vandalism to US$250,000.

The fiber cut that shut off phone and Internet service to thousands of San Francisco Bay Area residents on Thursday was fixed overnight, according to AT&T.

Service has been restored to fixed and mobile customers of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Nextel, according to the carriers. All of the affected Verizon users were back up and running by about 1 a.m. Friday, said Verizon spokesman Jon Davies. Sprint rerouted traffic on Thursday for its affected customers.

Underground cables belonging to AT&T in San Jose and some belonging to AT&T and Sprint in San Carlos were cut early Thursday morning. The cuts affected an undisclosed number of AT&T customers, mostly in southern San Jose and communities to the south, as well as about 52,000 Verizon subscribers and some customers of Sprint's IP (Internet Protocol) data service for businesses. Two major IBM facilities in southern San Jose were effectively shut down by the cuts, which also had a minor effect on an organization in charge of Internet domain names.

Police are investigating the incident as possible vandalism, and AT&T on Friday increased a reward for information from US$100,000 to $250,000. The reward offer already brought in many calls to San Jose police on Thursday, and the department is pursuing several leads, according to police spokesman Ronnie Lopez.

Whoever cut the fiber would have had to remove heavy manhole covers and use cutting tools to sever thick cables that each contain many strands of optical fiber, AT&T said. Such cases are rare, according to the carrier. But the incident raises the question of how secure carriers' optical lines are. Internet and phone users ultimately rely on underground fiber for connectivity to the Internet in most cases.

It's hard to make any infrastructure absolutely secure, Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said.

"Like most mission-critical things today, if you are bent on destroying something, then you can do it," Dulaney said. "All this means is that there is going to be a big market for cameras, going forward."

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