7.5 quake shutters local GCI customers


A diagram of the sub-sea path that GCI’s fiber optic network cables take in and out of Wrangell. According to a company spokesman, those cables were temporarily damaged after Friday night’s earthquake.

Customers of GCI in Wrangell lost Internet, cable television and cell phone coverage in the early hours on Saturday, Jan. 5 after a massive earthquake rattled the coast of Southeast Alaska.

The 7.5 magnitude temblor, which was located 110 kilometers west of Craig and was approximately six miles under the earth’s surface, struck just minutes before midnight on Friday, shaking houses across the region – and knocking out the communications provider approximately half-an-hour after the initial shock was felt.

Representative Peggy Wilson said she was contacted by GCI representatives in Juneau and elsewhere and was informed of the suspected reason behind the outage.

“I received a phone call from the lobbyist for GCI and he told me that the issue had to do with the fiber optic cables used to transmit phone, internet and TV in the area,” Wilson said. “The problem they are having is determining whether it is an underground or underwater issue. An underground break can be fixed relatively quickly, but if it’s underwater, that might take some time.”

David Morris, a company spokesman for GCI, said the outage was limited to Wrangell Island and could involve underwater cables linking Wrangell on two sides to Petersburg and Ketchikan.

“Last night we had an event which caused significant outages to Wrangell,” Morris said. “It appears that there was damage to the fiber optic cable that runs into and out of the island. We’re still analyzing data and doing some tests to determine exactly where the outage occurred and it appears that it could be sub-sea.”

That web, phone and TV connection is located near the city cemetery. Morris added that GCI had been working with other service providers in an attempt to restore service to at least the Wrangell Medical Center and law enforcement officials on Saturday afternoon.

Telephone and internet services to users were restored at approximately 8 p.m. on Saturday evening. Television service was partially restored by Monday morning. Alaska Power & Telephone and AT&T customers were not affected by the outage.


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