A cut cable in Edmonton caused widespread Internet and cellular outages across northern Alberta on Aug. 13.
LAKELAND – On the morning of Aug. 13, suspects allegedly cut and stole a section of cable in Edmonton, causing widespread cellular and internet outages in many areas of northeastern Alberta. In some areas, the outage lasted until Monday afternoon.
Lena Chen, communications and public relations with Telus, confirmed that after the incident occurred, teams immediately identified the damage and worked around the clock to fully restore service.
“This required bringing in specialized equipment, replacement cables, and additional technicians to support the repairs,” Chen stated. “Service was fully restored to all affected areas on Tuesday. We are working closely with the RCMP to support the investigation.”
According to Rhonda LaFrance, chief marketing officer for MCSnet in St. Paul, the outage, which began at 10:10 a.m. on Aug. 13, affected over 25,000 customers, including residents and businesses across the company’s service area in northeastern Alberta.
“One of our network partners experienced a fiber optic line cut. Unfortunately, it was on our 100 Gbps connection to the internet exchange in Edmonton,” LaFrance explained. “It also affected two additional 10 Gbps backup connections that we had with the same partner. Furthermore, this outage also affected other providers who were connected to this line and parts of Edmonton and Calgary.”
Upon assessing the nature of the outage, a team from MCSnet rerouted internet traffic to other network paths throughout the service areas. This required pushing a considerable amount of internet traffic to smaller sections of the company’s network.
“The rerouting took approximately three hours and was completed by 1 p.m.,” she explained. “The limited capacity meant that, while customers were connected, performance was degraded. Thankfully, our network partner was able to restore services to full capacity 24 hours later.”
LaFrance said while MCSnet frequently deals with interruptions to various partner circuits, rarely do these disruptions affect customers as the company has several backup circuits in place.
“A full network outage of this magnitude is extremely rare,” she stated. “The team is currently evaluating options to improve upon our disaster recovery strategy, and we are considering alternative redundancy strategies that could this prevented this outage from affecting customers.”
A challenge for some
Being without a reliable internet connection and cellular service was a source of frustration and inconvenience for many Lac La Biche businesses.
Tammy Tarrabain, manager of Tarrabain Dodge, confirmed that the outage had a significant impact on business operations at the local dealership. At times, unstable cellular reception made connecting with customers a consuming task.
“Customers who called in were frequently being cut off. When employees called them back, they in turn would get cut off,” she explained. “Quite often, what would normally be a four-minute call became 10 minutes or more.”
Tarrabain added that transactions have also been impacted by frequently spotty Wi-Fi connections that continued to an issue, days later.
“The Wi-Fi has been so bad lately that many debit and credit sales could not be made, and neither could appointments,” she said. “I have contacted Telus, but to date, nobody has come here to fix the issue.”
With most financial payments being made electronically, putting up cash only signs was the last thing many businesses wanted to do.
But this is exactly what occurred on Sunday morning at Lac La Biche Munchies. Mhitz Tunac, manager of the local candy store, described the experience of not being able to make take debit payments, use the cash till, or even contact the owner of the business as a ‘roller-coaster ride.’
“Minutes after the store opened, one of the workers couldn’t clock in. Then we discovered the debit machine wasn’t working and there was no cell service,” she explained, adding that the store’s sound system was also out of commission.
While business continued as normally as it could given the circumstances, Tunac said the situation could have been worse.
“If this happened on a Friday instead of during the weekend, we would have been hit much harder, as weekdays tend to be our busiest times,” she said. “While many people don’t carry cash on them these days, luckily, there are still those who do.”
Meanwhile, other local businesses barely felt the effects of the outages. Lac La Biche Sporting Goods reported no issues with processing bank cards or phones while Smiley’s was able to operate its debit machines through the mobile cell service used by the department store.
Likewise, IGA was only affected for about half an hour. “The store’s debit machines went down briefly, but that was about it,” said Jerry Bonofrio, manager of Lac La Biche IGA, adding that the store uses a different internet and cellular network.
Over at Screenshot Computers and Supplies Ltd., also located in Lac La Biche, staff were busy fielding calls from customers who were hopeful that the computer business could fix their problems.
“We told our customers that we ourselves were trying figure out why cell service and internet were down,” said Dilynn Manca. “While we managed to keep the store’s systems working, cell phone reception remained very poor.”