A vandal broke into a utility box near the Pasco-side of the Blue Bridge on Thursday sometime after 9 a.m. and disrupted communication services vital to thousands of businesses and homes in the Pasco, Walla Walla and Ellensburg areas.

An unidentified person cut the fiber optic cables connected to a splice enclosure, likely in search of copper wire to steal and sell. The incident was reported to Pasco Police, which investigated the crime scene during the middle of the day.

About 244 individual wires had to be reconnected to resume communication service to customers. As of 2 p.m., Charter Communications spokesman Kevin Allen said it may take until 5 p.m. to resume all services to all areas.

Service in Kennewick and Richland was not affected.

Allen said no theft took place. Work crews believe the vandal saw the cable was fiber, and not copper, and fled the scene. Pasco Police Captain Jim Raymond said that unless there are witnesses, this may be a difficult case to solve.

In Texas not long ago, Charter Communications saw 300 to 400 yards of fiber optic cable stolen, likely in search of copper, Allen said.

Charter Communications is the largest service provider in the Pasco area. According to its website, Charter is the fourth-largest cable operator in the country and offers telephone, Internet and television services.