Fiber Line Cut Near Shelbyville Leaves Thousands Without Land-Line Phone Service


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — AT & T says it was a fiber optic break between Shelbyville and Tullahoma earlier today, that created widespread phone outages across Tennessee and elsewhere.

One of the main concerns, was the inability of land lines to dial 9-1-1.

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Depending on where you live in the tri-state area, you may have been without landline service until about one this afternoon.
Hamilton County 911 Director John Stuermer, says the landline outage was widespread, but cell calls were still working.

“We are very fortunate that we do have the ability to get 911 calls from cell phones, so if anybody has an emergency, be sure that you use your cell phone to try to call us but don’t call us from you house phone or your business phone,” said John Stuermer.

Stuermer couldn’t put a number on the people who were affected, but it could have been worse because fewer people are using landlines.

“We do know that about 80 percent of our calls for 9-1-1 are from cell phones,” said Stuermer.

EPB’s extensive fiber optic network gives it the ability to minimize problems for its customers caused by such breakdowns.

“We did tests with 911 and we were able to call from land lines to 911 just fine, we also did make the move to reroute their traffic as well to some of the lines that we knew were working so that they would have connectivity – call connectivity outside of our service area as well,” said J.Ed. Marston, spokesman for EPB.

The mysterious break in the line 75 miles northwest of Chattanooga created widespread communication problems…not just the tri-state area.

“One of the challenges is – it is a network. And it is a kind of network that is highly connected, so problems within the network outside of our area can cause, you know for example, we’re talking about one fiber cut in one area, and it causes impacts across the state of Tennessee and even Alabama and Georgia. So, as you can see it’s very difficult to create the kind of redundancy that isn’t reliant on some of these major connections,” said Marston.

AT&T had the line repaired right after noon.

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Ashley is a lifetime Chattanooga area resident, and a 1987 graduate from UTC, with a BA in communications. While there, he was commissioned through the ROTC program, served simultaneously in the 1/181st field artillery Tn. Army National Guard, finished Airborne school, was a member of the Scabbard and Blade military honor society and ROTC Rangers, the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, played snare drum with the UTC Marching band, and played in a southern rock band called Southern Atmosphere, while working a full time job as a trainer at the Sports Barn. He also won the Southeastern United States teenage bodybuilding competition during this time. Ashley has been with News 12 Now for 21 years. Prior to working here he was a videographer, director, producer and editor at Falcon Cable TV in Dalton, Ga. for 6 years where he produced thousands of commercials and dozens of hour long features. He also worked as a freelancer and employee at another network affiliate in Chattanooga. He has operated a part time video production business from home for 25 years. He says his passion is telling stories that feature people who give of themselves to help others, and stories that inspire people to make positive changes in themselves and their communities. Ashley is ecstatically married to Debbie Henderson, and has two step sons, a daughter in law, a sister, and lots of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews. His parents are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. Ashley and Debbie are active members of Brainerd Baptist Church. His interests include weight training and cycling with his wife, photography, poetry, playing drums, and checking off items from his extensive honey-do list. If you would like to reach Ashley, email him at