Two separate incidents that damaged a Windstream telephone cable caused ongoing outages for more than 600 customers, a company spokesperson said Tuesday.
Many Texarkana, Ark., customers have been without landline phone service for more than three weeks. Repairs are still days away, delayed by difficulty gaining access to Union Pacific Railroad property and finding a replacement for the aging cable, Windstream spokesman Scott Morris said.
On June 23, a Union Pacific train ran into the cable, which had been loosened by a rain storm and was drooping over the tracks at UP's Longview Yard, the rail yard adjacent to Front Street downtown. That knocked out service for about 240 Windstream customers.
The railroad required a right of entry agreement before Windstream could access the property to make its repairs, and a UP safety crew must be on site while the work is done, Morris said. Windstream also had to pay UP for an easement allowing the cable to cross over six railroad tracks where the train struck it.
"On July 3, Union Pacific received a request from Windstream concerning an existing, unlicensed wireline that fell in Longview Yard in Texarkana, Arkansas. Due to the emergency nature, Union Pacific expedited its process to get a contract in place, allowing clearance onto our property. We reached an agreement on July 10 and granted permission for Windstream to begin scheduling repair time with a contractor who will handle safety procedures, while the paperwork was being processed. Processing was completed yesterday," a UP spokesperson said in an email Tuesday.
As soon as Windstream and UP crews can coordinate their schedules, Windstream will be working "around the clock" to repair the cable, Morris said. The job should take three or four days at most.
The second incident happened July 9, when a Southwest Arkansas Telephone Cooperative crew working at East Fifth and Ash streets downtown accidentally cut the same cable, stopping service for about 400 more Windstream customers.
After a difficult search, Windstream found a workable replacement for the "old technology" cable in New Mexico, and it has been shipped to Texarkana, Morris said. Splicing in a segment of cable at the cut should take two to three days.
Morris apologized for the extended duration of the outages, saying the circumstances were beyond Windstream's control. The company will work with affected customers to give them credits on their phone bills to compensate for the loss of service, he said.
Monday night, Arkansas-side resident Vincent Earl Brown spoke during a city Board of Directors meeting. He asked for help on behalf of his 95-year-old mother, Eula Brown, a cancer patient who has been without Windstream landline phone service since June 23. She is "not cell phone savvy," so she has no way to communicate, he said, and it is impossible to check on her without driving to her Morrison Street home.
The outage has slowed down business at AP Supply for a week, co-owner and Vice President Don Lagrand said Tuesday. The company on North Oats Street has been using cell phones to take orders for the pipe valves and fittings it supplies to paper mills.
"It's hard for us to get connected and do our work," Lagrand said. "Right now we're just kind of sitting around twiddling our thumbs."