Blame Canada: Dump truck crash in British Columbia slows Ketchikan internet

A Canadian dump truck reportedly plowed into a fiber optic cable on Sunday night, slowing down much of Ketchikan’s internet access as technicians worked through the morning to fix the problem.

Ketchikan utility officials say they’re optimistic that crews will restore the connection by midday Monday.

Ketchikan Public Utilities Telecom Manager Ed Cushing says alarms started ringing around 9 p.m. Sunday and technicians started troubleshooting alongside their Canadian counterparts.

“And after an hour, hour and a half or so of process of elimination, the folks on the Prince Rupert end discovered that a dump truck, of all things, had torn down a fiber optic cable — an aerial fiber optic cable — and severed our connection to the world,” Cushing said in a phone interview Monday.

Ketchikan’s city-owned internet provider connects to the outside world with a 90-mile undersea fiber optic line that runs to British Columbia. The collision reportedly occurred on Digby Island, just two miles from Prince Rupert.

With KPU’s main connection to the outside world cut off, traffic slowed to a crawl as the telecom company pushed traffic onto backup systems. But the outage came at an inconvenient time.

“We do have a couple of redundant paths for Internet traffic to travel on,” Cushing said. “But, unfortunately, 9 p.m. is every night is the peak of our traffic.”

That’s because many residents stream movies and television around that time. And while he says Netflix customers were likely less affected — the streaming giant has equipment in Ketchikan that Cushing says lessened the impact — other services slowed to a crawl.

“Normally, our redundant paths can handle traffic, but not at peak. And so, unfortunately, many of our customers had a not-very-happy time Sunday evening, last night, attempting to stream or otherwise use the internet, because it was like 1,000 cars trying to get on a one-lane road all at the same time,” he said.

Cushing says one-lane road is actually two backup connections: a wireless microwave connection to Prince Rupert and space on a private company’s fiber cable running to Seattle. He says those can handle about half of Ketchikan’s peak traffic.

He says the outage didn’t affect cellular networks or other internet providers.

Cushing says crews worked through the night to restore service. He says the incident is not expected to add to customers’ bills.

Disclosure: KPU Telecom is a financial supporter of KRBD.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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