Northwest Alaska hit with internet and cellphone outages, ’caused by offshore fiber optic cut’ – Leo Hohmann

by Leo Hohmann 

An article in the Anchorage Daily Newsreports that several areas in northwest Alaska are without cell and internet service after a fiber optic network below the sea was mysteriously “cut.”

The outage is not as concerning as the cause of the outage. Someone, or some entity, would appear to be responsible for a “cut to the subsea fiber optic network,” which serves the western-most area of Alaska. In other words, it’s most likely an act of sabotage and will leave cell and internet users without service for up to two months. I could be wrong, but this doesn’t sound like the sort of thing a couple of high school kids would plan for an after-school prank.


Yet, the company that owns the fiber optic network blamed shifting ice for the severed fiber optic line. I don’t understand how ice movement affects a fiber optic line that is “buried beneath the ocean floor.”

Below is an excerpt from the Anchorage Daily News article.

Residents of several North Slope and Northwest Alaska communities have been experiencing internet and cell service interruptions this week caused by a cut to the subsea fiber optic network. The cut might take up to two months to repair, and telecommunications service providers are looking for short-term solutions to bring service back online.

Quintillion, which provides broadband connectivity in Arctic Alaska, on Sunday experienced a subsea fiber cut about 34 miles north of Oliktok Point, offshore from Utqiagvik, Quintillion President Mac McHale said. The cut caused a systemwide outage, affecting Utqiagvik, Wainwright, Point Hope, Kotzebue, Nome and Atqasuk, McHale said.

“All of our broadband services are impacted by this,” McHale said. “And they’re not compromised — they’re completely out.”

While the company was still confirming the cause of the breakage on Monday, heavy ice movement most likely cut the fiber cable, McHale said. The breakage is significant, given the fact that the cable is buried beneath the ocean floor, below 90 feet of water, McHale said.

To fix the cut, repair crews need to wait until the ice breaks up around Oliktok Point, which is expected to happen at the end of June or early July, McHale said.

“We’ll be on-site at that point in time,” he said. “We’re looking at probably six to eight weeks.”

Read the entire article here.


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