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Massive telecommunications outage blamed on squirrels

Large swaths of Northern California, including Lassen, Plumas, Tehama and Modoc counties experienced a nearly complete telecommunications outage April 4, affecting many businesses and residential users in the North State.

Both the Internet and telephone services were out of commission for up to 12 hours starting around 9:30 a.m. as Frontier Communications’ technicians worked to reinstate the company’s network.

Many local businesses in Chester and in Plumas County could function on a cash-only basis because of the outage, and a number of people reported they were unable to access their funds via ATMs.

Some Verizon and AT&T cell phone customers reported interruptions to their services as well.

In Lassen County, the towns of Westwood and Susanville were also affected by the temporary communications blackout.

In a communiqué sent via email, Javier Mendoza, public relations director with Frontier Communications, said damage to a remotely located fiber-optic cable 42 miles west of Susanville caused an interruption of Internet, telephone, long distance and some cellular services.

Frontier crews were immediately dispatched, located the damage and worked as quickly and as safely as possible to make repairs, he said. Technicians determined that squirrels chewing through the cable caused the damage.

“While Frontier takes necessary precautions to protect infrastructure, squirrels are skillful climbers and sometimes get past protective barriers,” said Mendoza in a telephone message.

Frontier required snow vehicle operators and additional resources due to heavy ground snow to access the cable and make repairs, with service restored by 9 p.m.

“We thank our customers and the communities we serve for their patience as our team worked diligently to restore service,” Mendoza said.

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