Utah Blacked Out After Fiber Optic Cable Cut
Sep 30, 2023
Just days before the school year began, a major broadband outage struck Northern Utah’s Cache County School District. Phone and internet services went down without explanation, leaving officials uncertain when connectivity would resume. It soon became clear this was no ordinary outage.
A construction crew had accidentally cut through 1,300 fiber optic cables while boring under a Logan, Utah road. The extensive damage caused a two-day internet blackout affecting thousands of residential and business customers. Even county government offices and major local employers JBS Foods lost service.
With classes about to start, the outage could not have come at a worse time. By Tuesday, nearly half of the Cache County School District’s 25 schools had lost internet, according to Communications Director Jenda Nye. This made preparing for the first day of school extremely difficult. Initially, the Cache County Sheriff’s Office did not know the cause of the outage. But dispatch calls soon indicated a large-scale loss of internet and cellular service in communities south of Logan.
The blackout severely impacted local businesses as well. Lewis Painter of playground equipment supplier Great Western Recreation described losing two days of wages and work opportunities at their Logan headquarters. As an exporter of playground designs nationwide, connectivity is vital for their operations. Not only did the severed fiber lines knock out broadband, but cellular towers were also affected. Residents across Southern Cache County lost mobile data services as the outage spread. With limited information available, many took to social media looking for answers.
Permit records revealed that a construction firm called C&C Doing It Right had been approved bore conduit under Center Street in Logan for a nearby building project. But the underground boring inadvertently sliced through a major fiber bundle running down the street. The extensive infrastructure damage required emergency repair permits and traffic control to fix the cables safely. It took repair crews an estimated 36 hours to restore service across the multiple severed lines.
While proper permits and line marking were in place, the accident underscores the risk of unintended damage from underground work. With fall maintenance underway, cities encourage homeowners to call 811 before any digging to have utility lines located and avoid a repeat of this major outage.
C&C Doing It Right Construction did not respond to requests for comment on the incident. However, the outage serves as a reminder to take precautions before any below-ground activity. The consequences of striking undetected infrastructure can be severe, as Cache County learned when 1,300 cables were cut, crippling connectivity for thousands. Proper planning and line spotting can prevent community-wide disruptions.
Fiber optic cable cuts can happen during construction or digging, severing vital connections. This can produce widespread service outages, with entire communities losing broadband, cellular, and emergency networks when major backbone links are damaged. Repairs can take days, crippling homes and businesses.
Satellite internet avoids this vulnerability, beaming signals from space instead of relying on vulnerable ground infrastructure. With coverage spanning the globe, satellites provide a resilient connectivity option, limiting dependence on any single terrestrial link. When fiber fails and networks go dark, satellite systems maintain critical broadband access, keeping users online through weather, accidents, or disasters on the ground.