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Phone outage leaves courthouse business on hold

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
Phone service to and from much of Rowan County’s judicial system was out of commission most of Tuesday afternoon.
Callers trying to reach offices of the clerk of courts, the district attorney, judges, magistrates and others found that their phones returned to a dial tone after the numbers were dialed.
The problem wasn’t limited to Rowan County. Across the state, more than 60 government sites ó including courthouses and magistrate offices from the coast to the mountains ó were without phone and Internet service much of the day.
Sharon Gladwell, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts in Raleigh, said the problem began about 2 a.m. and spread as the day progressed.
She said all the outages were related to systems installed by AT&T/BellSouth.
“It’s a pretty serious outage, the largest in our history,” Gladwell said. She said that as of 6 p.m., officials with AT&T hadn’t identified the source of the problem.
Gladwell said in addition to creating headaches for numerous courthouse workers, the outage created problems in that it was impossible to access many legal filings and records.
Gladwell said that in some counties, residents contacted for jury duty couldn’t connect on phone calls to find out if their services were needed today.
“From time to time, we’ll have a backhoe hit an underground line or have a storm knock out service to an area, but we’ve never had anything of this magnitude,” Gladwell said.
She said AT&T is considered a vendor to the state government, and said that when problems such as those that happened Tuesday occur, the vendor is typically asked to pro-rate his bill.
She said an adjustment for Tuesday’s outages will probably be sought.
In Rowan County, the system went down shortly after 2 p.m., then came back on briefly about 4:30 p.m. before crashing a second time.
“The whole system’s down again,” Clerk of Court Jeff Barger said about 4:45 p.m., returning a call that’d been interrupted moments earlier.
He said he had to go through the courthouse to find one of only a handful of phones that were working in order to make that second call.
Barger said the phone system in place in the courthouse was installed just a couple of weeks ago. He said he didn’t know if Tuesday’s problems were related to the newness of the system.
“We’ve had a few kinks,” Barger said of the new system. “This is the first time the whole thing has gone down.”
He said that in the Rowan County Courthouse, there were no incoming calls Tuesday afternoon. A handful of phones allowed callers to dial out, Barger said.
Calls to representatives with AT&T were not returned Tuesday.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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