Around 70,000 Telewest subscribers lost their phone lines on Tuesday after an engineer dropped a spanner while fixing some equipment at the cable company's offices in Scotland.
The spanner landed on some batteries, starting a fire that took down the 70,000 phone lines. Customers were unable to make or receive calls from 2.30pm, and although most businesses were reconnected that afternoon many residential customers were cut off until midnight, according to the Edinburgh Evening News. Telewest's offices were evacuated and a fire engine called, but a special fire prevention system reportedly managed to extinguish the blaze.
Telewest is understood to be considering compensation payments to those customers affected, who were all based in the Edinburgh area. It claims that all lines were reconnected by 10pm, and apologised for the incident. "Investigations are now underway to determine the exact cause of the fire, and the extent of any damage caused," a Telewest spokesman said.
As well as telephone access Telewest also provides ISDN lines, and ADSL access through its Blue Yonder ISP. These services were not hit by the fire, though. "It was just phone users who were affected," a spokesman told ZDNet. "Obviously if you were a dial-up user you would have been unable to connect, but I don't think broadband was disrupted at all."
There are rumours that Telewest is in merger talks with rival cable operator ntl, although both firms are refusing to comment on the deal. They already work together in some parts of the country, but experts think that the large debts of both companies could be an obstacle. Ntl has around £10bn in long-term debt, while Telewest last reported net debt of around £4.8bn.
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