Outage Halts Internet, Cell Service in Northern Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -

People across northern Arizona were without internet and cellphone access Wednesday afternoon because of an outage involving service provider CenturyLink.

The problem was first reported around noon and was affecting people in an area from just north of Phoenix up to Flagstaff, about 100 miles away, CenturyLink spokesman Alex Juarez said.

The company believes a cut fiber-optic line is the cause, but that hasn’t been confirmed. The line supports various cellphone and internet providers that serve northern Arizona.

With their data connections not working, many businesses were only able to accept cash or had to manually take down credit-card information.

Officials from CenturyLink Inc. said they could not provide an estimate of how many people were affected or when service would be restored.

“I can only tell you we’re working as fast as possible. We truly apologize for the inconvenience,” he said.

According to Juarez, technicians from the Monroe, Louisiana-based company were going through a long, tedious process of inspecting the line “mile by mile.” If it’s found that a fiber line has been cut or damaged, workers will have to repair it.

Meanwhile, residents around Flagstaff tried to go about their daily business.

Kate Hance and Jessie Hutchison stopped at a Wells Fargo ATM to get cash because the local ice cream shop couldn’t take credit cards. They left empty-handed because the outage also put cash machines out of service.

“It’s moderately annoying, but it’s not going to ruin my day,” Hutchison said.

Staff at Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Flagstaff said they tried for about 45 minutes to restore their internet connection before employees realized their equipment wasn’t the problem.

Students, business people and those on lunch breaks often go to the popular bookstore and cafe to do homework, listen to music and browse jobs online. Some set down their computers Wednesday only to walk out minutes later after learning internet service was down.

Staff suggested to kids bewildered by the technical problem to go read a book.

Cordell Charley had just finished some online banking when the outage happened, and shut off his computer to grab lunch.

“You just feel lost,” he said. “It’s like, what happened?”

At Flagstaff City Hall, employees were unable make or receive calls at their desks.

“It’s quieter than usual,” said Stephanie Smith, assistant to the city manager. “The good thing is there is still lots of work to get done even without phones ringing. It is different when you don’t have that technology piece.”

The city is relying on the Arizona Department of Public Safety to assist with dispatching police and fire services. The city’s wastewater plants and wells operate on systems that were unaffected by the outage.

In Prescott Valley, about 75 miles north of Phoenix, the outage affected several services. Authorities said 911 service was being supplemented with hand-held radios and alternate phone numbers. Water and sewer facilities switched to manual operations, and residents could make utility and court payments with cash only.