The sabotage essentially froze operations in parts of the three counties at hospitals, stores, banks and police and fire departments that rely on 911 calls, computerized medical records, ATMs and credit and debit cards.
The first four fiber-optic cables were cut shortly before 1:30 a.m. in an underground vault along Monterey Highway north of Blossom Hill Road in south San Jose, police Sgt. Ronnie Lopez said. The cables belong to AT&T, and most of the service disruption came from this attack.
Four more underground cables, at least two of which belong to AT&T, were cut about two hours later at two locations near each other along Old County Road near Bing Street in San Carlos. Two additional lines were sliced on Hayes Avenue in South San Jose.
In each case, the vandals had to pry up heavy manhole covers with a special tool, climb down a shaft and chop through heavy cables. The four cables cut in San Jose were about the width of a silver dollar and were encased in tough plastic sheath. One cable contained 360 fibers, and the other three had 48 fibers each.
The vandalism comes as AT&T is in talks with the Communications Workers of America for a contract covering more than 80,000 employees, who have been working under their old deal since it expired at 11:59 p.m. Saturday. Union members voted in late March to authorize a strike but have not scheduled one.