Cut telecom cables in Maritimes thought to be deliberate

Service has been restored for approximately 255,000 Aliant Inc. customers who went without service from late Tuesday evening through early Wednesday morning, after the telco discovered fibre was cut in two eastern provinces.

According to Lynn Coveyduck, manager of public affairs for Aliant in Halifax, the company was informed at approximately 11:00 p.m. NST Tuesday of two incidents of cut fibre in the Avalon Peninsula in the eastern part of Newfoundland, an area that includes St. John’s. According to Coveyduck, the first fibre location was home to cable that enables all Aliant services for the eastern part of the island. The second location to be disrupted was in fact the back-up fibre connection for the first cable.

“In this particular situation in Newfoundland, the first cable that was cut was buried,” Coveyduck told IT World Canada. “The (person or people) would have had to have gone down a couple of feet just to get access to it.”

Nearly three hours later at around 2:00 a.m. AST, Aliant discovered an additional fibre cut in a more rural area of Nova Scotia, which left approximately 5,000 customers without access to services including emergency and 911.

The fibre cuts come less than two months since 4,200 Aliant employees took to the picket lines after both parties failed to reach a compromise on a new collective agreement. According to the Atlantic Communications and Technical Workers Union (ACTW), Aliant’s offers to employees in terms of job security, pensions and health care were insufficient. Aliant and its employees have yet to reach an agreement.

According to Coveyduck, the telco has experienced around 20 similar incidents since the beginning of the strike. She said that the timeline of the events yesterday and this morning suggests an inside operation.

“From our perspective certainly, our belief is that these cable cuts were deliberate and clearly the people who were responsible had knowledge of the location of the cables as well as their importance to the network,” she said. “We are obviously very concerned because people would not have had access to emergency services. Our real concern there is obviously public safety.”

Aliant is working closely in Newfoundland with the RCMP as well as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to discover who is responsible for the fibre cuts. The company is similarly working with the RCMP in Nova Scotia. In the mean time, Aliant is continuing to work on its security plans and said it will enhance the measures as necessary. The challenge, Coveyduck said, is that it is physically impossible to be everywhere all the time.

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