Cut cables disrupt Northern California phones, TV service

Fiber optic Internet cables in the San Francisco Bay area have been cut so often in the past year that the FBI is joining the investigation.

Although FBI agents couldn’t provide details on how widespread the effect of the attack was on businesses and residential customers, they did say that it did disrupt Internet services near Sacramento.

“These cuts affected multiple companies causing outages in some of the Bay area and stretched up into the Sacramento area”, said FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich in an email. The most recent was Tuesday in Alameda, California.

Repairs were underway late Tuesday morning, but there was no estimated time of when service would be restored. However, it appears someone broke into an underground vault, cutting three fiber-optic cables.

The cables belong to Level 3 Communications and Zayo Group Holdings Inc, Wave spokesman Mark Peterson said. They issued a formal statement saying, “the vandalism which resulted in the reported outages was confined to a single geographic location in the San Francisco Bay Area”.

The breakthrough demonstrates the potential to increase data transmission rates for fibre optic cables that serve as the backbone of internet, cable, wireless and landline networks, therefore hypothetically smashing the current speeds.

The firm admitted to the problem on its support pages, suggesting that the company was the victim of a “coordinated attack on multiple carriers”. It’s not clear if the attacks are related.

At least two companies acknowledged that fiber-optic cables they own were compromised in the attack.

The specialized FBI cyberteam is now in the process of investigating 11 separate physical attacks spanning back over a year.

The FBI asked the public in June for information regarding suspicious behavior before the internet outages, indicating the Web saboteurs were dressed as telecommunications maintenance professionals. While the cut lines were fixed within a day, it does highlight how easy it is to disrupt the internet within the physical world.


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