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Cut cable knocks out cable service in Farmington

A severed fiber optic line is to blame for the service outage Charter Communications customers experienced Wednesday night.

Tucker Carlson, director of government relations and communications for Minnesota's Charter service, got a call from a Charter customer in Red Wing around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The service there had been knocked out. It didn't take long before more complaints began to come in.

Carlson said Thursday a construction crew had been doing some line relocation work under Cedar Avenue, between 177th Street and 190th Street in Lakeville. Somewhere along the way, a 120-count fiber -- which provided service to all of the customers in Farmington, Red Wing and Northfield -- was cut.

The cut didn't just throw off the evening's television schedule for many customers. A number of customers also get their telephone and Internet connection through Charter.

"It happened at about the worst time of the day," Carlson said. "Right when people are getting home and turning on their televisions or Internet. It was during our peak time."

Locating the cut and fixing it that took a few hours.

The cut went through one of the primary fiber sheets, which means it happened near the beginning of the line that affects all of the services for the Farmington, Northfield and Red Wing customers. As the line continues down through those communities, it splits off several times. If one of those lines further down had been cut, only a portion of the service would have been affected, and not as many customers would have lost service.

"They hit it in the worst possible place they could," Carlson said. "They just barely missed the feed to the north, which would have affected Lakeville and some of those communities."

Once they found the cut, engineers went to work to repair the line with a process called "fusion splicing," which repaired the hair-width fiber that was cut. That process meant pulling the fiber up out of the ground, which proved difficult, too, because the fiber was so far under Cedar Avenue. Once it was up, it was taken into a mobile trailer where the work could be done. The fusion splicing itself takes 1 1/2 to two hours, Carlson said.

When repairs of this nature come along, Charter has to prioritize what will be put back in service first. In this case -- and in most cases -- that means getting the telephone lines back in working order.

"You don't like to leave customers without phone service," he said. "We wanted to make sure to get the emergency services up first."

Farmington customers were returned to full service by 10:45 p.m. Everything else was back up by 1:22 a.m., Carlson said.

"It was pretty catastrophic but we got everything back up by about 1 a.m.," he said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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