Friday, June 15th, 2007
By Timothy Cox
Squirrel causes problems
  A squirrel apparently bit into a fiber-optic line and wreaked havoc with telephones and computers in the Verizon service area locally on Thursday.
A news release issued Thursday afternoon by Verizon estimated that about 34,000 West Central Ohio customers were affected by the service outage. That meant local and long distance telephone service was sporadic or inoperable and Internet availability also was affected.
The problems were mostly isolated to Mercer and Auglaize counties, said Bill Kula, a Verizon spokesman in Irving, Texas. The cut occurred along a line in Grand Rapids, west of Bowling Green.
The telephone problems also caused headaches for local law enforcement and emergency responders. Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey reported that the fiber-optic problem knocked out the county's 911 emergency telephone service. The system was back up and running properly this morning, Grey reported.
Kula said there was a three-hour window Thursday when almost no Verizon services were available locally.
"A squirrel decided to add a little fiber to its diet, and it caused a big problem," Kula said.
A Verizon crew used an adjacent line to create a temporary fix about 5:30 p.m. before making permanent repairs later in the evening, he said. Fiber lines are more commonly damaged by backhoes and other digging equipment, Kula said, although animals do occasionally cause problems.
In addition to squirrels, a stray coyote will from time to time dig up a line and chew through it, Kula said.
Repairing fiber lines is a "tedious, meticulous, laborious task that requires the hands of a surgeon," Kula said.
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