Severed cables result in regional internet/cell service blackout

People packed into the Glenwood Springs Library on Monday morning after a Comcast/Century Link outage caused many to be without wi-fi or phone service.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

The Roaring Fork Valley got tossed back to the dark ages Monday after most internet and cellular services went down Monday morning, leaving folks scrambling to find functional wi-fi at a friends’ house, library, or totally out of the region. 

Accidental damage to fiber optic cables caused a region-wide outage of most cellular and internet services on Monday morning, impacting 27,000 Comcast residential and commercial accounts from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, plus cellular service providers.  

At 7:47 a.m., a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority-contracted excavator severed two fiber optic cables at 27th Street and Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs, according to Leslie Oliver, senior director of external communications at Comcast. Comcast and its subsidiary Xfinity provide much of the telecommunications services in the region.

Work on an underpass project resulted in the mistakenly cut fiber.

“As part of the 27th Street Pedestrian Underpass Project, the fiber was cut by our project contractor,” said RFTA communications manager Jamie Tatsuno in an email to The Times. “A utility locate was performed at the site by (U.S. Infrastructure Company), they did not correctly locate the fiber line, so the contracted team was unaware of the line’s existence. Crews are on site and working to repair the line.”

Around 3:30 p.m. most if not all Xfinity/Comcast services in the region were back to normal, Oliver said. 

Oliver said that customers were notified via text message or could check their Xfinity accounts for updates, which did not work at first for most people as they did not have cellular data or internet service.

Other internet providers like Rise Broadband and CenturyLink were not affected, though it appears most major cellular providers did experience some outages. 

Cellular companies are affected because cell towers connect to the broader network backbone by fiber or copper wiring, which they own or lease from local providers. The local network provider is responsible for the restoration of damaged infrastructure, Oliver said.

The process to fix the damaged fiber involves digging it up and assessing the damage to the cables, then splicers will cut back the cable to good glass to prepare for splicing. A new section of fiber optic cable will be spliced into the existing fiber.

Reporting from Glenwood Post-Independent’s Cassandra Rice contributed to this story.