Fire under Nimitz Hwy. causes phone, internet, cable outages on multiple carriers

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If you experienced a phone, internet, or cable outage Thursday, you weren’t alone.

Spectrum, Hawaiian Telcom, AT&T, and T-Mobile confirmed services were affected following a fire that damaged key fiber optic cables under Nimitz Highway.

Hawaiian Telcom reported phone and internet outages for about 30 business and government customers. The company issued the following statement Thursday morning:

“An overnight fire below the Airport Viaduct on Nimitz Highway has damaged multiple Hawaiian Telcom cables impacting service. Crews are on site ready to assess and conduct repairs as soon as first responders deem it safe and allow access.

In the meantime, our engineers are actively working on alternatives to restore service to our impacted customers. We appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding as we work to make these emergency repairs as quickly as possible.”

By 5 p.m., Hawaiian Telcom technicians used a workaround to restore phone and internet service to all but three customers. Crews were expected to work through the night to splice five 72-pair strands of damaged fiber.

Spectrum also said in a statement, “Our engineers are working to repair fiber optic cables that were damaged due to the trash fire this morning. We are restoring services as quickly as possible. We appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to repair the fiber.”

T-Mobile’s chief technology officer, Neville Ray, acknowledged the outage in a tweet.

There’s no word on what started the fire, but it was in an area of the viaduct that was recently fenced off after a cleanup of homeless encampments.

One business heavily impacted by the outage was The Cab. It was a madhouse all day at the company’s headquarters in the Ala Moana area.

The Cab uses T-Mobile to communicate GPS information to drivers, but without any service, drivers didn’t know where to go.

“It intermittently goes back to red, which means there’s no signal, so without that signal, we cannot receive any calls,” driver Mason Horiyuchi explained.

“We’ve got about 600 drivers, so we’re calling each driver to pick up. We’ve got a location for the customer, so we’re telling the driver where to go, where to pick up the customer,” said The Cab president Howard Higa.

Higa says The Cab also handles overflow rides for TheHandi-Van, leaving customers stranded or with long wait times.

“These are people that need to go to dialysis. They need to go to the hospital, and without communication with the drivers, we can’t really pick these clients up, and that’s a really big worry for us,” Higa said. “We’ve probably lost about 3,000 rides today, which is a lot of money for the drivers, and that’s the sad part about that.”

“It’s basically half my income, so my day is half shot right now,” Horiyuchi said.

Bike share company Biki was also impacted. Half of its stations were not functioning properly due to the T-Mobile service outage.

The cell service provider posted signs on its doors informing customers about the issue.

“This is something that everybody uses. It’s not just a pain in the butt for businesses and for emergencies. Old people use their phones. You’ve got to get in contact with somebody, you can’t do it,” said customer Mark Caldeira.

The outages have some questioning the location of the fiber optic lines.

“I think we need to rethink the phone companies. They need to rethink this whole situation,” Higa said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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