About 8,000 customers were affected Thursday when a fiber optic cable line owned by Frontier Communications, was severed by a construction crew working just north of Merrill.
According to Frontier Communications spokesperson Karen Miller, employees of Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) were working in the area of Dejenski Road and accidently cut the major line at about 1 p.m.
“Customers in the areas of Eagle River, Tomahawk, Minocqua, Lac du Flambeau and Rhinelander were affected by the incident,” Miller said. “Phone and Internet service to customers in those areas were impacted.”
Miller said all of Frontier’s customers that were impacted by the cable cut should have had their service restores no later than by about 6 p.m. Thursday evening.
“We had double crews on the situation to try to get service restored as soon as possible,” Miller said. “Customers gradually got their service back and section after section of the line were reconnected.”
The problem was certainly frustrating for residential and business customers, but the impact on local law enforcement agencies was obvious.
According to Lynn Grube, Oneida County’s information technology services director, the sheriff’s department had to work around the outage by using previously-arranged backup plans.
No info from Madison
“The problem really impacted law enforcement agencies throughout the county,” Grube said. “With the Internet and phone service down the sheriff’s department and other law enforcement agencies couldn’t access law enforcement data and our department couldn’t enter that data.”
Grube said that data, instead of being immediately entered into the state system, was written down in the interim and later entered electronically after the system was up and running normally.
“It also provided a problem where officers couldn’t use their squad car computers and they could not access the system from Madison for driver’s license and vehicle license plate information,” Grube said. “They had to communicate by radio instead of using their computers.”
Grube said the Vilas County Sheriff’s Department also was affected.
“They normally would have been our backup in this situation, but because their system was down too, the department used Lincoln County as a backup,” Grube said. “When information was needed from Madison, they were contacted and provided the information. But thankfully that was needed very little.”
Minocqua Town Chairman Mark Hartzheim said the town offices were also without Internet service. They had phone service, but Internet access was not possible.
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at email@example.com.