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CenturyLink trying to find out who caused major outage

Elise Thatcher

CenturyLink is investigating who the perpetrator was that caused thousands of its Roaring Fork Valley customers to not have cellular, landline or internet service for more than 16 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday.  

CenturyLink received notification at 5 p.m. Tuesday through its alarm system that a fiber cable on County Road 109, south of Glenwood Springs, had been damaged and causing an outage from Carbondale to Aspen. CenturyLink technicians worked through Tuesday night to locate the damaged cable, finally finding it at 5a.m.

Service was fully restored at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday. But during that time, customers of CenturyLink in those areas were not able to call 911 if there was an emergency, particularly if they had Verizon or AT&T as cell phone carriers. “Any time we have an outage we work very hard to gather all the information we can about why it happened and how it happened,” says CenturyLink spokesperson Sara Spaulding. “We’re certainly going to be investigating why this happened but as to any other information I just don’t have that.”

Credit Elise Thatcher
The site is between turnoffs for the Westbank Mesa and Ironbridge communities.

The third party contractor responsible for cutting the cable is an electrical contractor who has not been identified. Spaulding says it’s company policy to not identify outside contractors. The contractor was not working on a public project, according to Renelle Lott, spokesperson for Garfield County. Lott says she was able to update local law enforcement agencies via Twitter and the state emergency management office.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo says because no landlines could reach the 911 dispatch center, deputies were deployed to outlying areas in case people needed an officer immediately. Multiple Pitkin County alerts were sent out, asking people to go to the nearest fire or police station if they had an emergency.

The sheriff says the only call for service was an accident involving a vehicle and dog that was killed in Old Snowmass. DiSalvo says this incident is a reminder of how technology can make systems vulnerable. “I’ve never seen this happen before in Pitkin County. I have seen phone outages where we are able to transfer to another center but I have never seen anything like this that prevented us from doing that. People asked me when I briefed county staff … is there anything we can do and you know it’s stuff we are thinking about but short of a bat light I don’t know what we can do. We are incredibly dependent on technology.”

The Aspen Police Department also took to the streets to alert local businesses. A backup phone number was set up early Wednesday as an alternate way for residents to call a cell phone within the emergency dispatch center.


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