Severed fiber optic cables and equipment failure led to a major loss of phone and Internet service in parts of Goshen and Elkhart Tuesday.
According to Walter Streeter, a senior network engineer for Mapletronics, a high-capacity fiber optic cable was cut at a construction site near Concord High School at approximately 2:45 p.m.
"By my calculations, in the old telephone line world it would be the equivalent of about 32,000 phone lines," Streeter said. "That gives you an idea of the magnitude of what was cut."
He explained there aren’t that many users of the line, only that it has that much capacity.
Repairs to the line were completed between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, but were followed by the failure of a piece of involved equipment. Streeter said he was under the impression that piece was not available locally and had to be brought in from Lafayette. It was installed and service began coming back online at 12:45 p.m.
For Mapletronics, which has thousands of Digital Subscriber Line clients, the outage brought hundreds of phone calls.
"Probably around 2,000 of our clients were affected, and if even 20 percent of those call in, you’re talking 200 to 400 calls," Streeter said.
He said he heard the staff at a large production facility in the area that does just-in-time builds, had to send a large amount of their production work force home because they couldn’t get their orders in.
"You just don’t realize how much people depend on technology," Streeter said. "It tends to be pretty reliable, but if you don’t have a back-up plan, you can end up with problems."
It is not clear how many phone and Internet providers were impacted by the cut line and equipment failure. One Communications sent automated responses Tuesday to customers filing service requests. Also, some Verizon phone and Internet customers were without service Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.
One local business hit by the outage was Jules Boutique in downtown Goshen. Employee Jennifer Yates said she and the other employees couldn’t wait for their service to be restored because they do approximately one third of their business online.
"We rely heavily on the Internet, Facebook and social networking," Yates said. "As a small business, you want to reach out as best you can."
The boutique sends customers new merchandise updates, notifications of sales and the like online.
"They’re used to that now," she said. "We don’t want them to be let down."
With phone service out as well, the business went to manual receipts and credit card imprinting in order to still be able to do more than cash-only transactions.
"It just slows us down," Yates said. "We want to be able to give people faster turnaround."
Woldruff’s Footwear and Apparel
At nearby Woldruff’s Footwear and Apparel, phone service remained available although it lost its Internet connectivity.
"There was a small impact I’d say," owner Scott Woldruff said. "We use the Internet some, but it’s not a huge part of our operation."
He said he was very happy they never lost phone service.
"Our phones are used a lot with our customers and making orders," Woldruff said. "It’s important. I can’t imagine being without phone service very long. Two thirds to three quarters of our business anymore is credit cards."
Credit card transactions are processed over phone lines.
At least one business had a slightly different situation.
"Our service never actually stopped," KeyBank Client Service Manager Tanya Pierson said. "We could still help clients, it was just a lot slower."
Even after service was restored to most of the businesses downtown, phone service became spotty at the bank.
"Yesterday, the phones seemed fine. Today they’re really delayed," she said. "You also couldn’t get on some of the systems yesterday, it just depended on what you had to do."
She said it was more of an inconvenience than anything else.
Goshen City Court
In fact, it seemed that every situation was a little different.
"Our service is on, but it’s been coming in and out for two days sporadically," First Deputy Helen Bailey said at the clerks office for the Goshen City Court.
She said their computer systems were unaffected, but they had to come up with a work-around for their fax machine. Internet service in the office only went down briefly a few times.
"People have been nice about it," Bailey said. "I don’t know that anybody has complained about it."