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Cable-Chewing Gopher Likely Cause Of Disruption To Phone Service

Wed., Oct. 9, 1996

Some eastern Idaho customers lost long-distance telephone service for more than 12 hours, apparently because a gopher chewed through a fiber-optic cable.

U S West spokesman Clint Berry in Boise said the break occurred Monday night about 12 miles west of Rockland. It was the second such incident in eight weeks on a previously undamaged cable that has been in place since the mid-1980s.

The break was repaired about 8:50 a.m. Tuesday, Berry said. The outage resulted in an estimated 100,000 calls not being completed in the Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Rexburg areas.

The disruption to callers was intermittent. Some phone users in Idaho Falls were able to place long-distance calls because U S West has a redundant line that runs west to Boise along U.S. Highway 20, Berry said.

But Scott Thompson, a switch technician for Access Long Distance, said he was inundated by calls from customers. Thompson, in turn, called U S West.

“It was a big inconvenience,” he said. “I called them as soon as it happened. All I ever got from them was, ‘We’re working on it, we’re working on it.”’

Berry said reports started coming in between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Monday. Crews had to replace a 1,400-foot section of cable, which was sunk about six feet deep. Berry said the cable was not chewed completely in half. If rodents become a serious enough problem, the company could put in armor-reinforced cable.

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