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Originally published November 9, 2013 at 7:13 PM | Page modified November 26, 2013 at 10:25 PM

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Phone and Internet service slowly returns to San Juans

Five days after an underwater cable failure, residents are beginning to be able to call the mainland and surf the Web.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Phone and Internet service was slowly coming back to San Juan County on Saturday, five days after the failure of an underwater CenturyLink fiber-optic cable.

The San Juan County Council declared a state of emergency Friday as residents on San Juan, Lopez and Orcas islands dealt with spotty service or total outages. Initially, 911 emergency-response lines were down. Problems with cellphone and Internet services, as well as long-distance service to the mainland, have lingered.

Repair crews cobbled together a temporary fix that is providing about 20 percent of the telephone capacity the island county had before the cable failure. About 60 percent of the bandwidth for Web communications has been restored. Cellphone service varies by location and provider, according to the county.

CenturyLink spokeswoman Jan Kampbell said only a limited number of calls were going out or coming in to the island at any given time Saturday. She didn’t provide a specific number, but said call capacity was increasing throughout the day as workers continued to re-establish service. Callers might need to try multiple times to get through when call volume is high.

Similarly, the limited Internet service is slow as more customers get online.

The restored services have allowed businesses to resume taking reservations and processing credit cards.

“They’re back in business,” Kampbell said.

The county said additional work over the next two to three days should increase telephone and data-carrying capacity to roughly two-thirds of normal levels.

In addition to the temporary repairs, CenturyLink is working on a permanent fix. Divers have narrowed down the section of the cable, which sits 300 feet below the water’s surface, where they believe it is kinked or broken.

Crews are staging to bring up the cable so it can be repaired, but it’s possible that it can’t be, which would require CenturyLink to either buy or fabricate a 14,000-foot cable, according to the county.

Jay Greene: 206-464-2231 or Twitter: iamjaygreene

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