Vandals Target AT&T Fiber

April 10th, 2009 by · 3 Comments

Tens of thousands of people in the Santa Clara area lost connectivity today, with fiber cuts in two locations.  Apparently, however, this was not the work of the usual wayward backhoe nor did any earthquake or other natural disaster strike.  Vandals seem to have actually opened two manholes, gone in and cut multiple fiberoptic cables of AT&T (NYSE:T, news, filings).  It's no laughing matter, as evidenced by the $100K reward being offered by AT&T to catch the perpetrators.

Now, the damage in this case was limited, but was this a dry run?  So much of the country's fiber passes through known locations, whether it be longhaul or metro, competitive or incumbent, old or new.  They're supposed to be loops - protected rings - and the internet is supposed to route around disruptions.  However, in reality too many of those loops are only logical loops rather than physical ones.  Was this incident a test of how easy it would be to take down a particular location's connectivity, and how long it would take to restore?  Or was it just somebody's idea of a joke, a way to demonstrate the vulnerabilities in the system?

I certainly hope 'vandals' is all they are, and that they are caught swiftly lest anyone else else start to think crap like this would be a good idea.  But unlike those datacenter break-ins last summer in the UK, there doesn't seem to be any financial motive here.

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Categories: Fiber optic cable · ILECs, PTTs

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3 Comments So Far


  • Excellent point about the reality of lack of physical loops.

  • The_Highwayman says:

    Did anyone else go down? did they penetrate the splice case? I am asking because this seems fishy to me…

    hmmm….possible strike and work stoppage and an outage in a manhole…hmmmm

    that is just so teamsters and not CWA 😉

    I ahve seen this before Rob and not pointing fingers, but you ahve to udnerstand AT&T has very secure splice cases in the manholes, IOW its not just a lift the manhole cover that wieghs 100lbs and blidnly start cutting, stuff is protected and marked and in conduit…

  • Dave Rusin says:

    If the cuts were on the same ring and spherical — this was no accident. Someone understood the network architecture.

    I don’t think you can get odds out of Vegas that the same ring within a small period of time would be cut twice delivering the outage area footprint of this size. The odds of this happening, if it is a fiber ring, are so remote – this event makes history.

    Two point to point fiber cuts – shame on you AT&T.

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