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GCI ship to repair earthquake-damaged fiber optic cables

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The GCI cable repair ship, Wave Venture, has been anchored outside of town since yesterday.

Saturday’s earthquake caused a rare failure along the fiber optic cables that supply Wrangell with its television, telephone, and Internet service.

Wave Venture outside of Wrangell – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver/KSTK News

“From Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, and up to Juneau, there’s a fiber that runs in that direction,” explains David Morris, spokesperson for GCI. “And then from Juneau it goes out into the Gulf of Alaska where it hits another fiber cable where it runs down and there’s another junction box that then breaks off and goes to Ketchikan. So that forms a ring. And the type of technology that we use, if there’s a break in any one location, the traffic is automatically routed in the other direction. And so, in theory, if you’ve got a single break, you don’t have disruption of service. What occurred here in Wrangell, though, is on the unusual side because you had multiple breaks at different locations. So that effectively isolated the island.”

Most services were restored in Wrangell late Saturday night. However, GCI customers will continue experiencing problems and will not have full cable television access until the broken cables are re-connected.

“So what the cable ship is doing is, they’ve sent an ROV—a remote operated vessel—down,” said Morris. “They’ve located the fiber cable. And now they’re in the process of trying to retrieve the cable. And they’ll buoy it off and then they’ll splice the sections together. And then full restoration of services will be effected in Wrangell.”

Repairs are expected to take 24 to 48 hours once the cable is retrieved and assessed for damage.

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