Hyde County EMS is located above Blue Heron Realty on Irvin Garrish Highway, across from the Variety Store. Photo: C. Leinbach

Observer staff report

Cell phone and internet services on Ocracoke were down on Tuesday (March 14) from around 9:30 a.m. until around 2 p.m. after a fiber optic cable was damaged up the beach in Dare County.

The exact location of the cable cut was not released, but one source indicated it happened on Pea Island where crews from NCDOT have been shoring up dunes to protect N.C. 12 from high surf the last several days, according to a report by WOBX.

The cut also affected Hatteras Island.

Crews from Brightspeed, formerly known as CenturyLink, were dispatched to repair the fiber optic cable.

The satellite-based service, Starlink, was not affected.

Ernie Doshier, Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department assistant fire chief, said Wednesday that land phone lines and radios were not affected since they’re not internet based.

Hyde County Emergency Management Director Joey Williams said Wednesday that he did not know of any 911 calls during the time the cable was down.

When these outages occur, people may go to the EMS station if they have an emergency, he said. Currently, the EMS station is above Blue Heron Realty, across from the Variety Store.

He also said he ordered Hyde County Sheriff deputies to drive around the village more.

Hyde and Dare counties are working on a grant to get a continuous loop reconnected with the cables on Cedar Island, he said. Now, service comes down through Hatteras and goes across the Hatteras Inlet to feed Ocracoke.

“We’re trying to get it so there’s another fiber optic cable that comes from Cedar Island,” he said. “That way if there’s a cut up the beach we would still have service from Cedar Island.”

The State Emergency Management office knows about Tuesday’s situation, he said.

“They’re trying to push it through in the legislature and I do know that it’s on the governor’s radar,” Williams said. “So, hopefully, he can push it and we can get that grant. It’s a priority but it takes time.”

Last year two similar outages, in March and May, occurred due to digging accidents.

Wireless service from Tekniam, based in Lenexa, Kansas, is now in a trial stage in a small area of Ocracoke village.  If the first-phase trials are successful, Tekniam will be available in selected areas so that if fiber cables are accidentally severed, the island isn’t entirely without communication.

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