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.