October 31, 2013
Fiber Optic Disruptions Can Bring Life to a Halt
By Lavanya Rathnam
TMCnet Contributing Writer
As a society, we have become extremely dependent on communication channels and the wires that transmit. This means the smallest of problems in the communication cable affects people of the corresponding areas in a big way.
Though fiber optic cables are more reliable than copper wires, it is not devoid of problems. For example, when communication exceeds the maximum possible distance, the transmission becomes unreliable. Also, there are attenuation and dispersion problems that come with fiber optic cables. It can also happen due to human mistakes, typically made by maintenance crews, contractors and others who are involved in the installation and maintenance of fiber optic cables.
Recently, the residents of Bitteroot Valley in western Montana faced such a problem. They had a complete communications blackout when a contractor accidentally cut off the main cable that connected Florence and Hamilton. As a result, phone, Internet and banking services were shut down in the counties of Stevensville and Darby for about five hours. This disruption affected the lives of the residents of these counties in a big way.
The biggest impact of this shutdown was the disruption of the 911 service. Since landline phones were shut down, residents were unable to call 911 services. This is a serious issue not only in this situation, but in other places too, because any resident who needs immediate assistance will not be able to reach out at all. This is particularly dangerous for senior residents who live by themselves.
In this case though, the Sheriff’s department addressed the issue by rerouting the calls to another number. However, this was only a temporary fix and not a solution by itself. A better option is to install backup cables to prevent such disruptions. This is easier said than done because laying backup cables can cost millions and it is not something that private companies are willing to do.
Nevertheless, it is important that private companies and local governments get together to create a plan that will prevent the disruption of essential fiber optic communication lines.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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