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Maybe there should be an app for that

When a high-tech communications network can be taken down by a low-tech lawn mower, more safeguards should be in order. Hmm; could there be an app for that?

Published: Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

People who depend on smart phones for communications, information, entertainment, work and play received the silent treatment Monday.

For about 8 hours, cellphone service was knocked out, or only intermittently available, for customers in towns such as Rock Falls, Sterling, Dixon, Morrison, Polo, Milledgeville and elsewhere.

Depending on where you were, no cellphone calls could be made.

For some, no text messages could be sent or received. For others, some texts got through.

Smartphone customers who wanted to access the Internet were out of luck. All those apps adored by smartphone users simply weren't "apping."

Whoa! Lots of people depend on those handheld gadgets to get through the day. What happened?

Seems that an unidentified person in Rock Falls decided to mow the grass. About noontime, that person was trimming around a utility pole. A fiber-optic line, which ran down the pole into the ground, was sagging slightly at ground level.

You can figure out what happened next.

The lawn mower's blade slashed through the fiber-optic line. Three cell towers stopped working immediately. Out went cellphone services for customers of Verizon, U.S. Cellular, Sprint and other carriers. And out went repair crews to find and fix the problem.

The severed line also may have halted or slowed transactions for ATMs and credit cards, among other things.

Eight hours later, all service was restored. Calls could be made again, texts sent, photos shared, websites visited, and apps launched.

And life returned to normal.

The episode reminds us of the frailty of our high-tech communications systems. When something as quaintly pedestrian as a lawn mower can wreak havoc on how we communicate in the 21st century, perhaps more should be done to seek out and strengthen the weak links in the landline system that supports cell phones.

Hmm. Maybe there's an app for that.

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