Internet Blackout Caused by Attack by Saw and Gun

Guns, saws, and some very dim-witted thieves were all apparently involved in a network blackout that affected Internet users, primarily in the Northeastern U.S., earlier this week.

Cogent Communications Inc. said Thursday that a cable cut that occurred near Cleveland on Sunday night was caused by a saw, not by gunshot as first thought, but technicians struggling to replace the cut cable used a replacement cable that had been shot.

Cogent was one of several operators affected through Monday evening when two-thirds of a mile [1.1 km] of cable was cut between Cleveland and the tiny town of Montville, Ohio. With more than 32,500 miles of fiber, Cogent is one of the largest network operators in the U.S.

Crews rushed in to fix the problem only to discover that their replacement cable had been damaged by gunshots. "The original cable was not shot, it was the replacement cable," Cogent said Thursday. "The original cable was cut with a saw of some sort. Police are speculating that the thieves thought the cable was made of copper."

Copper prices have spiked in recent years, spurred in part by increased demand from China, and theft of all kinds of copper, including wires, has become common. Unfortunately for the Cleveland thieves, fiber-optic cable is made of glass fibers, not metal.

Cogent did not name the service provider whose lines had been cut, but a source familiar with the situation said the lines are owned by Level 3 Communications Inc. Level 3 did not return calls seeking comment.

TeliaSonera AB lost the northern leg of its U.S. network to the cut, the company said.

Grant Gross in Washington contributed to this story.

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