AT&T blames equipment problem for major widespread issues with phone lines, 911 calls in NE Ohio

CLEVELAND - An equipment issue with AT&T caused a major, widespread issue with telephones and 911 service Friday.

AT&T told Cuyahoga County's emergency management administrator, Walter Topp, that a piece of equipment is to blame and crews have fixed it.

Here is a statement issued from AT&T spokeswoman Holly Hollingsworth at 3 p.m.:
"Earlier today, some customers in Northern Ohio may have experienced issues with wireline and 2G wireless services. AT&T technicians quickly worked to resolve the hardware-related issue, and service is currently running normally. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers."

Reports from various telephone and Internet service providers earlier said a fiber line was somehow cut, affecting many users on various carriers – but AT&T has not yet confirmed that.

The break caused various issues with both landlines and cellphones.

911 service appeared to be affected in that many people are unable to reach 911 via landlines in most counties in northeast Ohio. Cellphones appear to be working to call 911, though. Anyone having trouble calling 911 is asked to dial the direct numbers for the department they're trying to reach.

As of about 3 p.m. Friday, most emergency agencies reported that the issue is no longer a problem.

Topp said people calling 911 from both cellphones and landlines have been misrouted to the county's 911 center since about 11:30 a.m. Friday. Those operators have been transferring the calls to the appropriate agencies.

At WEWS, many employees were not able to call cellphones from a landline.

Ryan Shorts, owner of Warwick Communications, told NewsChannel5's On Your Side Investigator Sarah Buduson that his company saw outages in Sandusky, Lorain, Akron, Canton and the greater Cleveland area.

Cleveland State University experienced a major disruption due to the outage. For about 2 1/2 hours, no one could call out locally on any of the school's 4,000 phones. The school uses a different carrier for long distance calls, which wasn't affected. The outage also disrupted the school's 1-800 customer service line, which is used for students to discuss financial aid and class schedules with university staff members.

"It is frustrating. Fortunately, we had other sources to communicate with our students. We have an online chat program that works pretty well. Quite frankly, a lot of our employees have cell phones, and we were able to move to our cell phones," said Joe Mosbrook, director of communications for Cleveland State University.

Besides Cleveland State, MetroHealth Medical Center told NewsChannel5 it was impacted by the outage earlier.

NewsChannel5 reporters Sarah Buduson & Kristin Volk contributed to this report.

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