Pat Reed’s insurance agency was open for business Tuesday — but definitely not for business as usual.

Raleigh County Commission President Reed said her Sunset Drive business, Pat Reed Insurance, had no phone service because of FiberNet’s Tuesday service outages.

She was not alone as she was part of a reported 15,000 to 20,000 residents, business owners and even emergency service agencies statewide who lost phone service from the Charleston-based telecommunications company.

FiberNet customers throughout West Virginia lost service about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday after the company’s primary and secondary switching systems failed, according to an Associated Press report.

Company President Dave Armentrout told the Associated Press the system is supposed to have multiple backups, but somehow, the equipment failed.

FiberNet offers local, long distance and data services, plus Internet services. It has about 92,000 customer lines and a network with about 2,800 miles of fiber optic cable across the state.

Tuesday afternoon, the company’s Web site said it was awaiting the arrival of replacement equipment as its employees continued to work on the repair of existing equipment. The new equipment was en route by noon Tuesday. The company estimated service restoration to begin at approximately 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

While Reed said Raleigh County does not do business with FiberNet and there were no known county government agencies affected, some private businesses throughout the Beckley area had no working phones.

“My business is open, but the phones are down,” she said. “They’re down all across town.”

Reed said she and other employees were conducting most of their business from cell phones because they could not contact customers — and customers could not contact them. While she noted her debit/credit card system was not a dial-up system provided by FiberNet, any other business that did have this could not take debit/credit card purchases.

Her business’ Internet service is provided by Suddenlink, she said, and it was fully operational Tuesday.

Reed said running a business with no phones has been difficult, and she noted business customers were given no warning that such an outage could occur.

“It’s very difficult not to know about this ahead of time,” she said.

Various county agencies contacted Tuesday afternoon by The Register-Herald had working phone service, but some noted there had been problems with the Public Defender’s Office’s phones. No one at that agency could be reached, and the phone line had a fast busy signal when called.

Jack Bowden, director of the Raleigh County Emergency Operations Center, said the center has not lost the ability to receive 911 calls.

“At the 911 center, this does not affect us at all,” he said. “We’re A-OK.”

The EOC has also not received any reports of any critical agency such as a hospital or emergency responders losing phone service, Bowden said.

Bowden noted that anyone with FiberNet service needing to call 911 would likely have to do so by calling from any other phone with service not provided by FiberNet. However, as of early Tuesday evening the EOC has not received any complaints from people who need to reach 911 and are unable to do so because of the FiberNet outage.

Beckley Police Department Capt. William Kelly and information technology director for the city of Beckley, said there had been no problems with city phones — but, like Bowden, noted some state agency phones had no service.

“From Beckley to Charleston, (FiberNet) is a major provider for both phone and Internet,” Kelly said.

Bowden said he had difficulty reaching some state agencies in Charleston Tuesday, but these were for routine calls — nothing urgent.

Ben Beakes, chief of staff for Secretary of State Betty Ireland, said his agency’s phone lines were working fine Tuesday, and no one had any problems reaching other agencies. However, he noted the Secretary of State’s Office is normally contacting other agencies in the Capitol building.

“I can’t speak for everyone else,” Beakes said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— E-mail: apridemore@register-herald.com

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