GILLETTE, Wyo. — Officials at two telecommunications companies that were involved in a disruption to emergency communication and government service in northeast Wyoming today said their teams worked to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.
Service has now been restored, the companies’ officials said.
Range Chief Marketing Officer Jason Wille said at 4:21 p.m. that he will only provide the following comment:
“Range had a fiber-splicing crew in the area. We encountered an issue with a couple of fibers that feed the northeastern portion of the state of Wyoming. And once the issue was isolated and we figured out what was going on, we proceeded to remedy the situation as quickly as possible, and all services now have been restored.”
Wille said he would not comment on whether any employee will be terminated or whether the company has previously had this issue. He is not in the capacity to comment on terminations.
Lumen’s Matt Villarreal, who works in corporate communications, said at 4:41 p.m. that all service has been restored.
“Lumen techs restored 9-1-1 services in Northeast Wyoming caused by a fiber cut from a third party on Sept. 19,” he said. “Our techs worked nonstop to fix the issue as quickly as possible. We appreciate your patience and apologize for the disruption.”
The outage took out all the county phones in the courthouse and the sheriff’s office as well as the phones at the Gillette police department and city hall, local government officials said.
Campbell County Emergency Management Coordinator David King said at 1:37 p.m. that he received a call from the local Lumen/CenturyLink technician.
“He advised that this was not a cut and that RT Communications/Range Telephone was in the area of the problem (18 miles from Wright) working on the fiber and wired something wrong,” King said. “He advised that it should be fixed now.”
AT&T has more outages on cellphones compared with Verizon, and it seems like Campbell, Crook and Weston counties are the primary areas of impact, King said. A portion of the Claremont area of eastern Sheridan County also appeared to be impacted but he supposes that that area is served with Campbell County equipment.
“The City is pleased to report that service to both 911 and our facility landlines has been fully restored,” City of Gillette Public Affairs Director Jennifer Toscana said at 3:39 p.m. “We would like to thank our residents for their patience and understanding during today’s outage.”
King said that, like any emergency, the event was a surprise. It took time to figure out, but staff adapted and learned.
“I put out the wrong phone number as one of the contact numbers, and that poor [person] got beat up on the phone. … I felt very bad about that because I was watching the dispatchers answering phones, right and left, and they do that for a living. I can’t imagine if my phone started blowing up,” he said.
King said that if his personal number were the one listed, he would have made a voicemail telling people it wasn’t the right number and not to call his phone and kept the phone off.
At a later date, emergency responder agency leaders will debrief, analyze and discuss how to better respond in the future, King said. Finding what communication methods do still function during such times is essential, and he’s grateful the internet continued to work. The last time a similar disruption occurred was about eight years ago, during a National High School Finals Rodeo event, when someone cut into a fiber-optic cable north of Casper.