11.4.09

AT and T Vandalism Makes My Day

My friend George sent me this article, which I am reprinting below. I had heard about the fiber optic lines being cut, but did not realize AT and T owned some of them. To the vandals: Kudos. I'm sure your beef wasn't with AT and T, but the fact that you cost them money gets my respect.

I'll keep you all posted when the FBI comes knocking.

You can read what you will into the bits about the union and the imported help. I think it speaks for itself.

See, AT and T! Everyone hates you! Snip.

$250,000 reward in phone cable vandalism

John Coté,Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writers

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Authorities hope a quarter-million-dollar reward will shake loose a tipster to lead them to the vandals who severed underground fiber-optic cables, cutting off phone service for tens of thousands of people and disrupting life throughout southern Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.

Investigators said Friday they are tracking down at least 10 leads and reviewing traffic-camera footage taken near one of four sites where the cables were cut Thursday in hopes of a breakthrough.

AT&T, which owns many of the severed cables, increased the $100,000 reward it offered after the cables were sabotaged to $250,000 on Friday, an incentive that police believe will be compelling.

"This case is going to be solved through a citizen contact," said San Jose police Sgt. Ronnie Lopez, calling the reward "huge."

No suspects have been named. Police revealed little about the investigation, saying some physical evidence had been found but providing no details.

The sabotage crippled parts of the three counties. Public safety crews that rely on 911 calls, hospitals trying to access medical records and people who wanted to make a landline or cell phone call, use an ATM or make a purchase with a credit card found services down. Repairs were completed, and full service was restored early Friday, about 24 hours after the first problems were reported.

Although many people trying to get emergency help via 911 were unable to do so for much of Thursday, officials were cautiously optimistic that no major problems had gone unreported.

"We've been running around doing a lot of service calls, but nothing as far as any major crime or emergency that was discovered," said Santa Cruz County sheriff's Sgt. Christine Swannack.
ifting manhole covers

Most of the 10 severed fiber-optic cables were in San Jose, where the first four were cut shortly before 1:30 a.m. Thursday in an underground vault along Monterey Highway north of Blossom Hill Road. Those belong to AT&T.

Four more underground cables, at least two of which belong to AT&T, were cut about two hours later at two locations near each other along Old County Road near Bing Street in San Carlos, authorities said. Two others were cut in south San Jose.

Each time, the vandals had to pry up manhole covers, climb down into vaults and chop through the thick cables.

Considering their importance to public safety and the economy, fiber-optic cables are not highly secured. The manholes are on public streets, and their covers generally are not that difficult to remove.

The typical manhole cover, a 250- to 350-pound disc of cast iron, can be removed with the use of a J-hook, a steel pole with a hook at one end, or any similar tool. AT&T spokesman John Britton said the vandals must have had access to such tools, but he declined to discuss what extra security precautions the company's manholes had, if any.

There are ways to deter thieves - or fiber-optic cable cutters - from getting into manholes, said Luke Menchl of the Neenah Foundry in Wisconsin, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of manhole covers.

Manhole covers can be locked with five- or six-headed bolts that require special tools to remove, he said. For those who want more security, there's a lock that Menchl likened to "a big security lug nut on expensive automobile wheels."

"U.S. embassies use them," Menchl said.

Ultimately, however, "getting a manhole cover up is not that difficult, even if it's bolted," Menchl said.
ontract talks

The sabotage in the South Bay came as AT&T was negotiating with the Communications Workers of America for a contract covering more than 80,000 employees, who have been working under their old pact since it expired Sunday.

"We are working under an expired contract and are prepared to strike at any time, which makes the timing of this vandalism difficult for us," said Libby Sayre, a regional director for the union.

"Neither the union nor its members are involved in this in any way," she said. "Our members spend their lives keeping up the equipment. We're confident they didn't do this."

Sayre said AT&T brought in contract workers earlier this year to work on fiber-optic cables in the South Bay, apparently to prepare them to take over in the event of a strike.

"There are nonunion employees who have access to the sites and the information to do this," Sayre said.

Britton said he had no specifics on contractors who have worked in the area.

"AT&T has used vendors at many times when different things come up," Britton said. "Do we have contingency plans for possible labor issues? Yes."

FBI agents are helping San Jose and San Carlos police with the "tedious, methodical process" of running down leads, Lopez said. The vandals could face federal and state charges.

In San Carlos, investigators reviewed footage from a red-light enforcement camera a few blocks from where the cables were cut in case the vandals were somehow recorded passing through, Cmdr. Rich Cinfio said.

"Everything's a possibility right now," Lopez said. "We're going to expect the unexpected."

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I did not include the tip line because I would prefer if my readers didn't send in tips. If you want the reward money, find the number yourself.

2 comments:

George Anthony said...

I don't believe in or support the ideology of the "stop snitching" idiots of the world. What does that mean for you? Uh, um, I kind of sent a link of your blog to the proper authorities, in hopes of scoring some major account credit with the ATT gods. What would Jesus do?

-Doug Brunell "America's Favorite Son" said...

I'm writing to AT and T to express my condolences. I'll post the letter here.