Halted Phone Service Paralyzes Operations in Fort Stockton and Nearby Places

By Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

FORT STOCKTON- Both cell phones and land lines were down for most of the day on Monday in nearby counties. NewsWest 9 Facebook followers say it was all the talk in Pecos County, Brewster County and Jeff Davis County.

Fort Stockton officials said it was a nightmare for them. When NewsWest 9 traveled there to cover the story, we lost our wireless service about halfway into the drive. Much of that area runs on AT&T service, which our crews use. AT&T service was disrupted for hours on Monday.

An error message popped up if you tried swiping your credit card at the Stripes in Fort Stockton.

"I was getting an error and so I thought I was entering the wrong zip code but obviously it was right because I asked my wife but it wouldn't let me pump," Hank Thetford, said.

He and his family were driving through on their way to New Mexico when the tank got low and he needed to stop. Luckily, he had other means to pay.

"We brought cash. We brought minimal cash. We didn't think to bring a lot of cash because we had no issues with the debit card before," he says.

The gas station credit card machines are hooked up through AT&T phone lines, but those lines were dead on Monday. AT&T tells us a third party accidentally cut a fiber optic cable in Monahans, virtually paralyzing local wireless and wired users.

A customer service representative told NewsWest 9 that in addition to Fort Stockton, she showed service was also down in Van Horn and Alpine.

When we got to the Fort Stockton police station, dispatch tried reaching the chief for us, but his phone lines were down, too. They said all 911 calls were being rerouted to Pecos and then messaged electronically back to them.

It couldn't have come at a worse time for shop owner Amy Terazzas. She says, "We have a lot of holds for tomorrow and later on because people wanted to use their debit cards and credit cards."

On one of the busiest shopping days of the year, she was forced to put nearly 100 items on hold for folks who couldn't use their cards.

Mobile shop cashier Leslea Fierro spent the day at work worrying about her boyfriend and their twin boys.

"If they were to need me for some reason, they wouldn't be able to make any calls either and it's scary to know if he needed something he'd have to take it upon himself because he can't use the phone to call an ambulance if he needed to."

AT&T says service was fully restored shortly before 8 p.m. on Monday.