On Wednesday afternoon the Arizona Daily Independent reported that Northern Arizona went dark on Wednesday when a CenturyLink link cable was cut just north of Phoenix in a remote desert location. According to authorities an apparent act of vandalism resulted in a sensitive fiber optic cable being cut.
On Friday, the Washington Free Beacon (WFB) reported that those familiar with the situation claim it was clearly an act of sabotage. Whatever the case may be, the incident has raised serious concerns about the safety of U.S. infrastructure.
All incoming and outbound voice communications in Coconino County experienced an outage as well as internet access for certain locations throughout the area.
The outage occurred around noon on Wednesday, cutting off the northern half the state from the rest of the state. Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott, and Cotton Wood were impacted according to CenturyLink.
“There was a vandalism that took place on a fiber optic cable that basically runs from Phoenix to Northern Arizona,” said Alex Juarez, a spokesman for CenturyLink in Arizona, according to WFB.
The line, which is an extremely thick cable, appeared to have been cut with a hacksaw, Juarez told the WFB. “We’re not sure what the intent was, but they were able to cut the fiber optic cable, possibly using a hacksaw, it looks like a pretty straight cut.”
“Obviously CenturyLink takes a high concern in security. Anytime there’s an outage, it impacts customers and business. In this instance, it affected everything from banks to hospitals to state agencies, you name it,” Juarez told the WFB. “So it’s a high priority to have these lines secure. These types of instances do not happen very often.”
“It’s a desert area, so it’s very remote, extremely remote,” Juarez said, according to the WFB. “The cable is located in a desert area north of Phoenix.”
“The fiber optic cable was encased in metal piping which would have to have been accessed prior to reaching the optics,” the police said in a statement. “This indicates a power tool of type may have been used.”
The WFB reported, “This doesn’t look like ‘vandalism’ but rather like sabotage,” said Rachel Ehrenfeld, the founder and CEO of the American Center for Democracy (ACD) and its Economic Warfare Institute (EWI). “Next time it could be both the fiber optic cables and a cell-tower or two.”
“This reinforces the need to better protect our communication channels and prepare backup systems wherever possible,” she told the WFB.
Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe, (LD-6) said in a statement released on Friday, “I am extremely concerned about the costs and problems caused to our citizens and business owners, in my district and in Northern Arizona, who were impacted by this act. The severing of an important communications cable, utility line or other vital infrastructure must be addressed by local and state governments, law enforcement and the courts. Wherever possible, we need to harden important infrastructure making them difficult to locate and access, especially in the remote chance of an act of terrorism. In all cases, the perpetrators must be caught and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Wherever possible, our businesses must be resilient, prepared to continue operating during utility outages, for example, by utilizing backup generators and old fashioned calculators. Remember the Boy Scout motto: ‘Be prepared.'”