Verizon Phone Service, 911 Interrupted In Texas

Telephone service, including 911 service, was out for about four hours Wednesday to most of the city after a Verizon Communications fiber-optic cable was accidentally cut.

The problem affecting less than 50,000 customers occurred the same day Verizon officials announced that Keller would become one of country's few cities that connects fiber-optic lines directly to homes and businesses for faster service.

"It was totally coincidental," Verizon spokesman Bill Kula said.

Currently the fiber-optic lines are used to connect cities. Homes and businesses are typically connected to the lines with copper wires.

The line was accidentally cut at 9:30 a.m. at Rapp and Whitley roads, where work is being done by a city contractor hired to improve that intersection. Service was restored about 1:30 p.m., officials said.

The cut was in a trunk line, the principal conduit that connects cities.

"It is the equivalent of the artery in our body," Kula said.

The outage affected most of Keller and parts of Azle, Grapevine, Southlake and Springtown, and a small part of Fort Worth, he said.

Typically such a cut takes 12 to 24 hours to repair. But because so many Verizon workers are in the Keller area, they were "shifted to the pressing issue of the day," Kula said.

Keller Fire Chief Kelly King said many residents were turning to cellphones and overloading cell towers.

Emergency telephone calls were routed to North Richland Hills' 911 center during the outage, he said.

Amateur radio operators were sent to 13 schools in Fort Worth, Keller and Southlake, and a nursing home in Keller in case of emergencies, King said. A radio operator was at Lone Star Elementary School on Shiver Road in north Fort Worth.

"It was kind of a quiet day, and nobody got hurt, but it was nice to have him there," Principal Steve Hurst said.

Most people using telephones in the affected areas heard silence or a rapid busy tone when they picked up the telephone during the outage, Kula said.

Workers got a chance to catch up on their work at the Greater Keller Chamber of Commerce during the outage, said Susan Ford, the organization's chief executive officer.

"At first we didn't quite understand what was happening until every time someone tried to call, we got a busy signal," she said.

The situation hampered reservations for Friday's Senior Spotlight on Academic Excellence Luncheon. The chamber hosts the luncheon, which honors seniors in the Keller school district. Workers received a flurry of phone calls after the phone lines were working again, she said.