AT&T is now offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever is responsible for severing lines fiber optic cables in San Jose tha left much of the area without phone or cell service Thursday.
John Britton of AT&T said the reward is the largest ever offered by the company.
Police are investigating four severed fiber optic cables in San Jose that left tens of thousands of area residents without phone service Thursday and prompted the mobilization of Santa Clara County emergency communication systems.
Additionally, San Carlos police reported another case of severed fiber optic lines, although no phone disruptions were in connection with that incident.
A Gilroy spokesman says a woman was forced to flee her home during a robbery because she couldn't call 911. She rushed to a nearby firehouse to report the crime.
The county of Santa Clara declared a state of local emergency late Thursday. The official declaration will allow Santa Clara County to potentially recoup some of the costs of maintaining public safety while the 911 system was down, county spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said.
San Carlos police Cmdr. Richard Cinfio said he and other officers responded to alarms around 3 a.m. and found two severed fiber optic cables at an underground site at Old County Road and Bing Street.
"The suspect or suspects would have needed to go down a few manhole covers in order to damage these cables," he said.
San Carlos police are asking anyone with information regarding this case to call a specially activated phone line at 650-82-4423.
Santa Clara County emergency communication systems were mobilized and San Jose police are investigating the severed fiber optic cables.
"It's pretty clear someone cut the four fiber optic cables," AT&T spokesman John Britton said as he watched crews make repairs. Usually such cuts happen by accident during construction, utility repair or other projects that require digging, he said. Britton said no such projects are scheduled in the area.
AT&T hoped to have phone and Internet restored by 6 p.m. Each of the four cables contains dozens of smaller lines, Britton said, so service will be restored to different areas throughout the day.
The cut lines triggered AT&T alarms around 2:30 a.m. Britton said. The outage has affected the towns of Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin, he said. AT&T, police and county officials have reports of additional outages in San Jose's Coyote neighborhood, parts of Santa Cruz County as far south as Aptos, and pockets of San Benito County.
Police are now officially treating the cut cables as a vandalism case, and consider the repair site in south San Jose a crime scene.
Vandalism can be a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the amount of damage. Further charges relating to disrupting phone lines could be possible depending on how the case proceeds, Lopez said. A suspect and motive were not immediately available.
A fleet of police and repair vehicles spent the Thursday at the site on Monterey Highway just north of Blossom Hill Road. Around 11 a.m., workers erected a small tent over the manhole to continue repairs.
Lopez said cutting the cables required removing a heavy manhole cover, perhaps with a tool, and climbing more than eight feet underground. He declined to give specifics, for fear of triggering copycat acts.
The nearby IBM corporate offices were also affected, Lopez said, and managers sent some employees home.
In addition to AT&T customers, the outage affected 52,200 Verizon land line customers, according to Santa Clara County's emergency response team. Some areas were able to make local calls, but couldn't access 911.