On Monday (August 27), communications throughout the Tri-County region were compromised when around noon a fiber line was cut affecting AT&T phones (both long-istance land lines and wireless phones) and Internet service in Alpine, Marfa, Van Horn, Fort Stockton, Presidio, Terlingua, Fort Davis, Marathon, and other cities. The line was cut some 30 miles from Odessa by a third-party contractor, but it affected all the communities that connect to the AT&T network. Service from Verizon mobile phones were operational, as was the service of alternate providers exclusive to outlying rural areas, such as Big Bend Telephone.
The effects in the Tri-County were immediate. Emergency officials in Marfa came to the radio station to let people know that 911 was not operational. If locals had an emergency, they were asked to go to the EMS/Fire Department or to the Sheriff/Jail. Prescriptions at the local clinic couldn’t be called into the pharmacy. School officials couldn’t contact parents to deal with a sick student on the first day of school. Wire transfers could not be made at the local bank.
It appeared that AT&T customer service was not even aware of the disruption, when the company was contacted by area residents during the crisis, and even in the hours following. The lack of 911 calling was cause of repeated concern throughout the community. The telephone company has not installed the necessary equipment to have 911 operational during an emergency of this kind.
Service was restored during the 5 o’clock hour.