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UPDATED: 911 systems, internet restored in Columbia, Marquette, Juneau and Adams counties

August 7, 2018

A broken fiber optic line caused Columbia County and several other area sheriff’s departments to lose 911 services for much of Monday afternoon.

The issue also led to widespread disruption of internet services.

At about 6 p.m., the Columbia County Dispatch Center began receiving 911 calls again after a day of emergencies reported through the direct office phone line.

Just before 1 p.m., the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office sent a message through the Nixle alert system stating, “911 lines are down in Columbia County.” The message directed emergency calls to the Columbia County Dispatch Center direct phone line.

In a mass email alert sent at 4 p.m., Columbia County’s director of IT and facilities stated the outage struck 911 services in Juneau, Adams, Columbia and Marquette counties. The message directed residents to contact local sheriff’s offices directly.

Monday’s outage appeared limited to Frontier customers, including county law enforcement. Charter Communications, a telecommunications competitor to Frontier, reported no outages in the area. Representatives of Frontier Communications did not respond to a request for comment about the cause of the outage or number of customers affected.

The outage appeared to be caused by a broken fiber optic line, according to Columbia County Sheriff Dennis Richards. Columbia County Dispatch takes calls for the majority of emergency calls for local agencies. At the end of 2011, the Portage Police Department took its final call before its communications were absorbed into the county system.

“This is a similar incident to the one that happened a few years back when someone hit the line while digging south of Arlington area,” Richards said.

The county’s 911 services went down for about seven hours on the afternoon of Dec. 19, 2014, in an incident that also affected Adams, Juneau, Marquette and Sauk counties. The outage happened when a farmer adding drainage tile to a field severed the line in the area of Highway 60 at Harvey Road.

During Monday’s internet outage, some banks closed early for the day, while other businesses encouraged employees to work remotely. Other businesses with different internet service providers were not affected.

Full service was returned to the area after 6 p.m. Richards announced the 911 center had resumed normal operations a short time later.

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