North County experienced a widespread communications outage Thursday after an unknown vandal or vandals deliberately cut two main fiber optic lines belonging to AT&T.
According to AT&T, the vandalism to the cables happened in a manhole in Del Mar early Thursday morning, resulting in affected wireline service in the Del Mar area and other parts of North County.
On Thursday evening, AT&T announced it was offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the vandalism to their network.
NBC 7 San Diego was at the scene in Del Mar Thursday as a team of AT&T workers meticulously spliced together the damaged fiber optic lines that provide Internet, cable and phone services to customers from Del Mar to South Carlsbad.
“It’s a really big crime against our community,” said AT&T spokesperson Tom Gable.
Gable said whoever cut the cables pulled open the manhole cover -- which weighs about 100-pounds -- and then climbed inside the storm drain system and cut two main lines.
"[It was] somebody that had knowledge of the system. It was somebody that didn't think much about the community and the damage they were doing to businesses and people and their homes and other things,” said Gable.
The communications outage affected businesses like the Albertson’s grocery store on Via de la Valle and Tabu sushi bar where workers said they couldn’t use their credit card machine during the afternoon lunch rush.
"The phone wasn't working either so we lost a lot of to-go orders and we're really big on to-go orders every day, and a lot of customers left because there isn't any Wi-Fi here as well," explained Tabu employee Anna Zhu.
Gable said the fiber optic line-cutting incident isn’t a situation where someone may have been trying to steal copper wiring to sell because, in his words, “You can’t do anything with fiber optic – there’s no market for it.”
That’s why Gable calls this vandalism pure sabotage and why AT&T is offering that major $250,000 reward for an arrest and conviction.
"Hopefully with this big reward, it'll convince people to turn this person in and bring him to justice," added Gable.
Anyone with tips or information about this can contact AT&T at (800) 807-4205.