Fiber optic cut disrupts network access for hill facilities
Vandals severed wires in effort to take copper cabling in underground conduit

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs

02 March 2001 | An underground fiber optic cable connecting the campus with facilities in the Berkeley hills was severed during the early morning hours of Tuesday, Feb. 27. The incident disrupted network connections for hundreds of employees at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Hall of Science, the Samuel L. Silver Space Sciences Laboratory and other Strawberry Canyon operations.

Campus officials believe the cut was the work of thieves, who forced open a manhole cover on the hillside above Memorial Stadium to remove high-voltage copper cabling from an underground conduit.

"The fiber cable apparently was in the way; they just chopped it out," said Berkeley lab Manager of Communications Facilities Ed Ritenour, who spent much of the next few days "running up and down the hillside in a lot of mud" to oversee repairs.

The fiber optic connection was severed at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. Lawrence Berkeley Lab restored Internet, e-mail and phone service by noon.

Lawrence Hall of Science was not as fortunate. Its entire staff of 175 has been without external e-mail, access to the Internet and other network communication for most of the week.

For the public, the most visible casualty of the incident has been the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence coordinated by SETI @Home, a program based at the Space Sciences Laboratory. SETI distributes radio telescope signals for analysis by 3 million personal computers around the world.

John Hess, campus network operations center manager, reported a significant impact on the computing infrastructure, "just from people trying and failing to reach the SETI data server."

As of Friday morning, ET-hunters attempting to share data with the SETI server were still out of luck. Those who went to the SETI Web site for an explanation were rerouted to a news update on a server not impacted by the incident. The alternate home page ó ó was set up Wednesday. By 11 a.m. Friday, Hess said, it had already received 233,000 hits.

The vandals are believed to have scored as much as 750 feet of copper cable. Capt. William Cooper of the UC Police Department said metal has been stolen from campus construction sites and storage yards in the past. But "I canít recall where itís been pulled out of the ground," he said. "You have to go to a lot of work to do that."


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