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Police authorities and FBI are looking for people responsible for knocking out phone service to thousands of residents

AT&T is now offering a $250,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible after vandals cut eight fiber optic lines that dropped telephone and internet service for thousands of people in the San Francisco South Bay area.  The incident occurred on Thursday, and telecommunications were down for most of the day before technicians were able to fix the problem.

Vandals cut fiber optic lines in four different areas, and needed a special tool to remove the 250-lb. manhole covers.  Furthermore, they had to cut through the thick cables that are protected by a heavy plastic sheath designed to stop possible tampering.

AT&T yesterday issued a $100,000 reward for information, but bumped up the reward when it was discovered damage was more serious than originally discovered.  Verizon and Sprint were also affected by the malicious actions.

Some banks in the area were forced to temporarily close, while all service was disabled, and hand-written receipts were offered to customers.  Grocery stores and other retail outlets had to accept cash only, since credit card and ATM transactions were unavailable.  

At least several people attempted to call 911 before driving themselves to the emergency room.  Many businesses also were forced to either accept cash or close for a few hours, though they will not be able to claim any refunds from AT&T over lost sales.  A lady in Gilroy fled her home when a robber broke in, and couldn't call 911 before fleeing to a nearby firehouse.

Several potential witnesses have come forward to police, but it's unsure how many credible leads have been phoned in since Thursday.   

The FBI has started working with local law enforcement officers who are searching for the people responsible -- originally believed to be vandalism; it looks like the case is more likely coordinated sabotage of the phone network.  This recent act shows how fragile the telecommunications industry is at the moment, and how much people rely on it for day-to-day activities.

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By MrPickins on 4/12/2009 4:48:07 PM , Rating: -1
Maybe I'm just paranoid, but this sounds like it could be a trial run for a sabotage/terrorism group...

RE: Vandals?
By Myg on 4/12/2009 5:01:47 PM , Rating: 2
I am definatly paranoid, and I KNOW that its not just some vandals ;-)

Its just too much effort required for organization/tools for common vandals.

RE: Vandals?
By HurricaneDitka on 4/12/2009 5:32:07 PM , Rating: 2
I saw in the news that the contract is up for workers at ATT and that there was a possible strike being called. Could have been internal sabotage.

RE: Vandals?
By theapparition on 4/12/2009 5:32:49 PM , Rating: 5
Just like there was no way a few people could do the detail of a crop circle overnight, it must be them aliens......until the guys came forward and showed how they did it, Oops!

No offence, but getting into a telecom manhole does not take super-special unique tooling. Anything they need can be commonly bought or made VERY easily. Plus, a cordless sawz-all will make short work of the thickest fiber cables in no time.

However, this does just highlight how completely dependant we are on technology to get everyday tasks done. Many people don't even have a wired phone anymore, what happens when the power goes out?

Hopefully it was just a stupid valdal prank and they get caught and fully punished. The alternative is quite scarry indeed.

RE: Vandals?
By amanojaku on 4/13/2009 12:56:04 AM , Rating: 4
<waves walking stick> You kids get out my sewers!!!

RE: Vandals?
By Kibbles on 4/13/2009 4:58:01 PM , Rating: 2
What are you doing chasing kids in sewers?

RE: Vandals?
By amanojaku on 4/13/2009 6:03:51 PM , Rating: 3
Trying to keep their minds out of the gutter. ;-)

RE: Vandals?
By Mitch101 on 4/13/2009 8:08:05 AM , Rating: 5
I'm going with Ninja's or Mongolians. If they didn't find any horse tracks at the scene then defiantly Ninja's.

RE: Vandals?
By MrPickins on 4/13/2009 1:25:30 PM , Rating: 2
It's not necessarily the difficulty in opening the manholes that troubles me, it's the fact that multiple lines were cut with many miles separating them. This makes the attack sound much more organized, and not the work of random vandals...

RE: Vandals?
By Aquila76 on 4/13/2009 7:50:28 AM , Rating: 2
I am not THAT paranoid, but find it odd that this happened in my area (MA) a year or two ago, last year some undersea cables were cut, and now this?

RE: Vandals?
By MrSmurf on 4/12/2009 5:02:03 PM , Rating: 2
The general public doesn't realize how easy it is to disrupt public ulitities like phone and electric. Here in Cincinnati the main artery for electric, phone and even cable is relitively unsecure. You just have to know where to look and do it without anyone seeing you, which would probably be impossible.

RE: Vandals?
By William Gaatjes on 4/12/2009 6:27:32 PM , Rating: 2
I doubt it, That would be like giving your trump card away.
I assume the telecom provider will make sure that the cables cannot be accessed and damaged that easy anymore.
On the other hand, it is in the nature of businesses to not always take proper action snce it costs money. Short term thinking...

RE: Vandals?
By teohhanhui on 4/13/2009 1:13:15 AM , Rating: 2
Considering that fibre-optic cables are protected by aramid ("Kevlar") fibres they shouldn't be easily cut by vandals, plus it was not one but eight cuts. Sounds like organized crime...

RE: Vandals?
By Bladen on 4/13/2009 5:30:08 AM , Rating: 2
Something similar happened in Sydney about half a year ago.

They did it to force vendors onto using manual credit card swipes, so as to commit credit card fraud. I think by just overdrawing on stolen credit cards, as the shops would not know if the cards were either, unless they made a phonecall for each card.

RE: Vandals?
By AahzNotOz on 4/13/2009 11:47:40 AM , Rating: 2
D@mn Comcast installers!

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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