RCMP phones working again after vandalism sows chaos

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Vandalism to a fibre-optic line between Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀ potentially placed lives in danger on Monday night as police warned their phone systems were no longer working properly.

At 9:30pm on Monday, RCMP said phone lines in almost a dozen NWT communities were "experiencing technical difficulties" and residents may not get through if they tried to call emergency numbers.

Technicians said the problem had been fixed as of 2pm on Tuesday. It was brought on by vandals cutting the fibre line by the side of Highway 3 on Monday morning.

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Eleven communities known to be affected were: Behchokǫ̀, Délįne, Fort Good Hope, Fort Liard, Fort McPherson, Fort Providence, Fort Resolution, Norman Wells, Tuktoyaktuk, Tulita, and Whatì.

"Call service may be intermittent" in those communities, RCMP said on Monday while the problem persisted, and "other communities ... may experience difficulties."

Residents who needed police help before the problem was fixed were told:

  • If it's not urgent: Go to your detachment during regular working hours, ordinarily 9am-5pm.
  • If it's urgent: Call Yellowknife's emergency number at (867) 669-1111. If that doesn't work, go to your nearest detachment in person.

RCMP said in a statement they consider a situation urgent if public safety is being or could be jeopardized; grievous harm may result; someone's life is being threatened; or police are needed immediately.

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Residents of Yellowknife and nearby communities lost almost all internet access, and a range of other services carried by the fibre line, from just before 9am until shortly after 4pm on Monday.

Police have confirmed they consider the outage a second case of vandalism to the fibre line in less than a month.

Earlier on Monday evening, Northwestel said damage to the line was "unfortunate and senseless" but did not provide a detailed explanation of what had taken place "as the matter is under investigation by the RCMP."

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