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Butte Falls residents still without internet, phone service weeks after South Obenchain Fire

CenturyLink customers in the Butte Falls area say they're still without internet and phone and haven't received an update on when services would be restored.

Posted: Oct 20, 2020 6:11 PM
Updated: Oct 20, 2020 6:29 PM

BUTTE FALLS, Ore. — Some CenturyLink customers in the South Obenchain Fire's burn area have been without internet and phone services for weeks. And despite numerous calls to the customer service lines, Butte Falls residents are still seeking answers.

"We went weeks without being able to get a hold of them. And then once we did, the people that we got a hold of seemed to know nothing about our situation," Marshal McFarland said.

McFarland lives near Butte Falls and nearly lost his home to the South Obenchain Fire that began on September 8. The fire spared his home and his mother's house on his property, but he still lost some outbuildings and a well. The fire burned most of his property. He and his family have been without internet and phone services ever since.

Driving up Butte Falls Highway, telephone lines hang down from power poles, lying limply in trees and in the grass below. Seeing those lines lay there for weeks has McFarland doubting his service will be restored anytime soon.

"I think it's pretty apparent that that's not going to be the case," McFarland said.

The service outages are especially tough on McFarland's family. His mother, who lives on his property, is disabled and uses a life alert device in case she needs emergency assistance. It doesn't work, however, without a functional phone line. And McFarland's youngest daughter is a student at Eagle Point High School. Without internet service, it's impossible for her to attend distance learning classes from her home in Butte Falls.

"I'm having to have my youngest daughter who still lives at home . . . stay in town with her grandparents in order for her to be able to continue to do her distance learning," McFarland said.

If the internet and phone service were restored in Butte Falls, McFarland's family could all come home.

"I would love to have my entire family to be able to come back home. And right now it's just not an option. I'm only getting to bring my daughter home on the weekends," McFarland said.

Lumen Technologies, the parent company of CenturyLink, provided this statement when asked by NewsWatch 12 what was causing the delays in service:
"As soon as it was safe to do so, our teams accessed the area and installed temporary cables to restore as much of the internet and phone connectivity as possible. Our installation and construction teams continue working on restoration efforts however, there is the potential that some customers may be experiencing ongoing service disruptions.

We know how important these services are to our customers In the Butte Falls area. Much of our connectivity was destroyed in the fire. Approximately 5 miles of fiber, as well as the copper telephone lines, were burned along Butte Falls Hwy, as well as the side roads on and off the highway."

Senior communications manager Kerry Zimmer added CenturyLink installed around 5 miles of "aerial cables" for temporary relief.

While McFarland and other customers await an update from CenturyLink, the company announced on Twitter Tuesday they were named to Newsweek's list of "America’s Best Customer Service brands."

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