CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - AT&T officials say service has been restored for customers in Charleston and Columbia who were affected by an internet and cell phone outage Wednesday afternoon.
The outage was first reported at approximately 1 p.m. when a fiber line was cut.
The cut was caused by road construction crews, AT&T spokesperson Ann Elsas said.
Elsas said technicians were working to get the outage fixed as quickly as possible.
"We apologize for the inconvenience," Elsas said.
Workers at Lowcountry AT&T stores say hundreds of people have been in and out since the outage began, most thinking it was their phone.
Once they arrived, they realized the outage was much more widespread.
"I thought it was my account, we came to AT&T, turns out everything is shut down," customer Justin Peterson.
Mount Pleasant Police blocked off the AT&T parking lot on Weaver Circle and is only allowing people to exit, according to a tweet from the department. The move was made, police say, to avoid congestion.
Shortly before 5 p.m., police were told they could reopen Weaver Circle because most of the service should have already been restored.
Police also told residents they do not need to go to their AT&T store because of the outage because the issue is with AT&T equipment, not the customers' phones.
The Charleston International Airport reported internet and data outages and urged passengers to check with their airlines to determine the status of flights.
None of the 911 call centers in Charleston, Berkeley or Dorchester Counties were directly impacted, but Charleston County deputies say they are receiving many hangups because of the outage and are reminding people to only call 911 in an emergency.
The sudden outage caught customers off guard.
"I pay a lot for my bill, more than some of these average places," customer Paul Hankins said. "I want the reliability, I don't want to worry about crazy stuff going on and this was a surprise."
Being knocked "off the grid" also served as a reminder of the degree to which people now rely on their phones.
"It's like my entire life is on hold, everything we do is through this phone and as soon as I saw no service I kept restarting my phone putting it on airplane mode, turning it off and no matter where we were in the city there was just nothing," Peterson said during the outage.
"We've gotten so used to our cellphone that it's impacted everything because everything hinges on somebody checking something or checking their email or whatever so the whole day has been kind of disrupted but I'm okay," Joseph Burch said.
At the height of the outage, websites that monitor phone outages reported complaints from customers coming in from across the Lowcountry, including Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, North Charleston, Goose Creek, and Johns Island.