Developing Story

Fiber optic cable suspected in communication outage


SE Earthquake UPDATE, 4:45 PM Friday July 25, 2014

Mother Nature rattled Northern Southeast this morning with and magnitude 5.9 earthquake and several dozen aftershocks. The quake appeared to have damaged internet and cell service to thousands of Southeast residents.




Alaska Power and Telephone is one of the primary internet and cell providers for Haines and Skagway and other small Southeast communities. With 3-4,000 thousands of its customers without service, spokesman Mark McReady says the company presumes an major underwater fiber optic cable near Juneau was affected by the quake.

“It sounds like the majority of our Southeast Alaska customers are affected, because that particular highway was our primary link between Seattle and Alaska, to the rest of the world. So at this point you basically have a lot of the long distance and data carriers scrambling to reroute, and talking to each other about how best to get that accomplished in the shortest time frame.”

The cable is owned by Alaska Communication Services but used by several providers, including AP&T. ACS has not released any details of the outage or an exact cause, except to say it is working to restore service.

There was no information from AP&T or ACS about how long the outage might last.

The main quake happened just before 3 a.m. and was centered about 40 miles west of Gustavus. That’s along the Fairweather Fault, according to state seismologist Michael West of the Alaska Earthquake Information Center. At 5.9, it was widely felt he said and is considered a significant quake.

“Only in Alaska would we dismiss a 5.9 as maybe not that big. We really have the magnitude scale completely devalued in Alaska. It’s a very significant earthquake.”

West also explains earthquakes can generate underwater landslides that can damage or sever underwater cables. He can’t confirm that’s the exact cause of the Southeast outages, but it’s definitely plausible, he says.

“There are well-published studies on submarine landslides in this area. You look at Southeast: There’s big, tall mountains, and big glaciers — and what are these processes doing? They’re dumping massive amounts of sediment right into the ocean, right offshore. That whole area is known to be very prone to landslides. We’re speculating right now, but there’s every reason to think that an earthquake of nearly magnitude 6 would be capable of generating modest submarine landslides.”






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