Copper thieves knock out service for AT&T customers

FRESNO, Calif.

An AT&T spokesperson told Action News the attempted theft happened early Tuesday morning. About 850 customers were affected including dozens of businesses.

At Elbasha restaurant at Blackstone and Shaw, the lack of communication was only part of the problem. "A lot of people when they come pick up their food, they have to pay with credit card. Now the credit card machine is not working, said owner David Abandeh.

AT&T said the trouble started when someone tampered with cables at two different locations less than an eighth of a mile away from one another. The would-be thieves cut copper cables, disrupting phone and some internet service to hundreds of customers. "We've got approximately 850 working cable pairs that were cut and ATT&T crews are out there, 7/24 around the clock until we can restore all the service, which will be about 10 o'clock tomorrow morning," said spokesperson John Britton.

Ironically, the businesses affected included the AT&T store on North Blackstone. There, employees used wireless technology in order to continue serving customers.

Technical difficulties also affected the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and its website. The agency normally uses the website to inform the public about burning restrictions, but a spokesperson said if they couldn't communicate with the public, they couldn't enforce the restrictions.

Papa Murphy's at Blackstone and Shaw got by with a little 'MacGuyvering.' There, an assortment of wires and modems kept them in business. "We've managed to make it through. But it's just been silly," said manager Sara Ritterbush.

AT&T said they planned to have most of the service restored by midnight and others by 10 a.m. Wednesday. AT&T said it appeared the would-be thieves didn't get away with much, if any, copper cable.

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