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GCI network woes ding Juneau

Posted: March 1, 2012 - 1:11am

GCI customers in Anchorage and Juneau, and possibly other areas of the state, experienced outages of cable and cellular service due to fused cables in the Anchorage area.

GCI spokesman David Morris said the communications company is having a difficult time finding which areas were affected. In the first hour or two of an outage, Morris said, it is imprudent to be too specific.

“We find out more after we fix the thing,” Morris said Wednesday.

Although the cable damage was located in Anchorage, depending on how calls or Internet traffic gets routed, Juneau residents could be routed to the damaged switching center.

The single point failure in GCI’s network fused cables that contain hundreds or thousands of individual strands that need to be reconnected.

“It takes a while to fuse these different strands together,” Morris said.

Morris said GCI conducts a kind of triage when repairing strands in a cable — the highest trafficked and most critical connections are reconnected first.

Service to Juneau was reported to be restored by 3:30 p.m.

Network failures are not unique to Alaska. Online businesses have learned to adapt to the possibility of a failure-induced shutdown of their sites. These businesses, particularly large businesses, take great pains to set up multiple networks, Morris said. Smaller businesses, he said, generally don’t have the resources.

Signing up with AT&T, GCI, Alaska Communications and Verizon may not be enough protection.

“You have to make sure (networks) are physically diverse,” Morris said. Carriers often carry the traffic of their competitors on a portion of their network.

Morris gave the example of using a fiber line with a satellite backup.

“That is physically diverse,” Morris said. “If you want to make sure you don’t go down, (you) must have multiple networks,” Morris said.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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