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Merrimack Valley

December 30, 2012

Merrimack Valley Year in Review


— Doug Moser

Verizon outage highlights problems with infrastructure, homeless

Early on the morning of Aug. 27, a fire broke out under the Central Bridge in Lawrence that would end up severing a major communications line and knock out phone, Internet and TV service to thousands of customers throughout Eastern Massachusetts. Some lost service for two weeks.

It was a blaze that would ultimately show the fragility of our modern-day infrastructure while highlighting the perilous existence of homeless people all over the city.

The fire started in a mattress that had been placed on top of a group of PVC pipes carrying bundles of fiber-optic and copper wires used by Verizon to bring phone, TV and Internet signals to homes all over the region from one of its primary hubs on the other side of the river in Lawrence. The mattress had been placed there by homeless people, using the underside of the bridge as an encampment, complete with furniture, tents, coolers and more.

Firefighters said they think the fire may have been smoldering for hours, which is why it burned through so many of the PVC pipes and damaged so many of the fiber-optic wires and copper cables. Thousands of wires and cables were damaged in the fire.

Residential and commercial TV, phone and Internet users were frustrated even further by an inability to get answers from Verizon customer-service people.

Once they determined the severity of the damage, which was vast, technicians began the pain-staking process of splicing together every fiber-optic cable.

By the weekend of Sept. 8, all but a handful of people had their service restored.

— Bill Kirk

Another challenging year for Lawrence public schools

The image of Lawrence Public Schools took another beating, further reinforcing its reputation as the state’s most troubled and worst performing school district.

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