Week-long communications outage frustrates many
GREENSBURG- Top leaders in St. Helena Parish are shopping around for another telecommunications company after a widespread outage left them without access to basic functions for almost a week.
A fiber optic line managed to get cut, according to the St. Helena Parish Sheriff's Office. That knocked out vital communications at the dispatch center, froze operations at the parish's only hospital, and left banks and businesses doing things the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper.
"One of our most important thing was patient care being delayed," Michelle Cassel with St. Helena Parish Hospital said. "Our emergency room had to go on diversion with Acadian, meaning we call them we can't take any emergent patients that they would bring to us."
When the internet went out in the entire parish, there was no way to do basic things like get an X-ray or CT scan. The hospital said all of their machines rely on the internet.
"Insurance related, not being able to verify insurance," Cassel said.
The problem was even more sobering for law enforcement. Inside the parish's dispatch center, calls had to be taken the only fashioned way with an analog phone. The sheriff's office also couldn't access jail records.
"We had problems, trying to get people out and notifying fire departments," Chief Deputy Chester Pritchett said. "Get whatever first responders we needed into place."
Churches and other businesses were affected too.
"It was down about two weeks," Pastor Moses Simms said. "Other places were able to get up sooner than that. We were down about two weeks."
The sheriff's office said it has had enough. The parish routinely deals with sporadic outages from its provider, Century Link. Tonight, the parish is shopping around, but the options are expensive, possibly $30,000 to $40,000 more. Pritchett said his office has already reached out to Senator Bill Cassidy's office in hopes of getting some form of assistance.
"We need more stable and reliable broadband," Simms said. "They need to increase the infrastructure to allow persons online without slowing down the speed."
Century Link released the following statement:
"We are sorry for the inconvenience the service outages have caused our customers. We are actively trying to resolve some third party issues, and we are exploring options to make service more reliable and to increase bandwidth in this market."