Tedious task of splicing fiber-optic cable cited as reason for lengthy service outage in South Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tedious task of splicing fiber-optic cable cited as reason for lengthy service outage in South Lake Tahoe

A Charter crew works to restore internet service to Carson Valley on Friday afternoon.
Brad Coman |

Most of Lake Tahoe was without internet for over 12 hours this past Friday after a garbage truck severed a Charter Communications fiber-optic line near the Minden-Tahoe Airport.

The incident also left Charter customers, including those in Carson Valley, without phone and television services.

Verizon, which uses Charter’s fiber-optic line, was affected as well.

While the issue left many customers frustrated, it did not appear to impact critical services in South Lake Tahoe.

South Lake Tahoe services, including emergency dispatch, operate on AT&T and were not impacted by the outage, City Manager Nancy Kerry told the Tribune Friday.

Jason Roberts, director of Barton Health’s information systems, told the Tribune that the outage had a small impact on Barton, most noticeably on the phone systems.

“As part of Barton’s disaster recovery plan, the electronic health records systems are connected to three Internet providers,” Roberts said in an email. “This way clinicians can still have access to patient information at a reduced speed.”

Though connectivity issues are somewhat usual in the Tahoe Basin, an outage for that long is unusual.

“Repairing damaged fiber-optic lines is a labor-intensive process that begins with our technicians locating the damage and gaining access to the site, many times after a utility company has been able to restore power and deemed the site safe for our employees,” said Bret Picciolo, director of communications for Charter’s northwest region.

“Once we gain access, repairing the damage is a painstaking task that, in cases like this, requires splicing more than 100 individual strands of fiber to each other.”

Picciolo said in this particular instance, the line was severed in multiple places, which contributed to the lengthy fix time.

Details around how the garbage truck downed the line are still unclear.

Douglas County Undersheriff Paul Howell said that East Fork Fire Protection District responded to the incident, and told the sheriff’s office it was “not a traffic accident” so they did not need to respond. No police report was ever filed.

According to East Fork Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Scott Fraser, the instance was classified as an “electrical issue” and really seen more as a “public assistance.”

“The only thing we went to see was if a power line was struck, and it was only the phone and internet lines,” said Fraser. “We then alerted the company.”

Fraser was not on the scene, and could not provide any more details on how the truck came to strike the pole.

A similar incident occurred in 2008 when a truck pulled down cable lines in Washoe Valley, knocking out service to points south.

In 2010, a fiber optic phone line was cut during construction along Heybourne Road north of Stephanie Way. Douglas County was without 911 service for several hours.

Clarification: This story was updated to reflect that a fiber-optic line was taken down in the incident and not a pole. A Charter Communications spokesperson stated that severing of the line was due to “a truck running into a pole.”

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