The sabotage caused major disruption in residential service affecting tens of thousands of people and preventing some from making 911 emergency calls.
The disruption, which is under investigation, occurred about 2 a.m. Pacific time and caused service outages in and around Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy in Santa Clara County, and areas in Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, officials said. There had been no reports of major emergencies during the outage as of midafternoon Thursday.
AT&T expected to have "some service" restored late Thursday by repairing some of the cables and rerouting telephone traffic. "While our priority is to restore service to all affected customers as soon as possible, AT&T is working closely with law enforcement officials on this act of vandalism," an AT&T spokeswoman said in an e-mail sent to InformationWeek.
Sgt. Ronnie Lopez of the San Jose Police Department said AT&T repair crews arrived at the scene of the vandalism in south San Jose about 2:30 a.m. and found that someone had removed a manhole cover, descended about 8 to 10 feet, and cut four or five fiber-optic cables.
"We're investigating this incident as vandalism," Lopez said. "It's a criminal investigation that's under way."
Because 911 emergency services were affected, police had beefed up patrols in the "dead areas" in San Jose where there were no communications, Lopez said. Investigators did not know the motive, and there have been no arrests.
The areas affected are in the southern portions of California's Silicon Valley, home to many of the nation's major technology companies. The Santa Clara County Office of Emergency Services reported that 52,214 Verizon household landlines were down from the outage, but police and emergency medical communications were working. Verizon leases use of the cables from AT&T and is the only provider of landline service in the area.
The county did not how many cellular phones were affected but said the 911 phone system had been down in the affected area from the beginning of the outage. People who needed emergency assistance were advised to go to the nearest fire or police station or hospital or to flag down an emergency vehicle. Police, sheriffs, and fire departments had called in additional personnel to patrol affected areas.
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