Comcast Suffers Major Internet Outage

Hits customers from Virginia to Massachusetts

3 min read
Comcast Suffers Major Internet Outage

The cable company Comcast suffered a major Internet outage affecting a large swath of the US East Coast from Virginia to New Hampshire last night from about 2020 to 1120 EST. The problem apparently involved Comcast's Domain Name Servers (DNS), according to Rob Pegoraro in his Fast Forward blog in the Washington Post.

This CNNstory with a time stamp of 0246 today quotes a Comcast spokesperson as saying:

 "Late this evening, our engineers identified a server issue that was affecting only Internet service in Greater Boston and DC/Beltway areas."

The Comcast spokesperson could not say how many customers were affected, nor what the specific problem was with its servers. Engineers were still working the issue, he said.

Warning: rest of this blog post is a personal rant.

As of now - about 0430 EST - Comcast has still not officially said what exactly happened on its web site or the number of customers affected, and I have doubts that it ever will. Why? Just notice how the spokesperson's statement above tries to minimize the number of Comcast customers affected. However, news reports indicate Comcast customers in Vermont, New Hampshire,  Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia were without service. That is a whole bunch of folks.

Furthermore, I don't think folks living in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine or Connecticut think they are part of the "Great Boston" area; and I am certainly not located in the DC/Beltway area in Virginia.

Comcast seems, like most companies nowadays, to have decided that by saying as little as possible about a major service disruption - especially on its web site - means that it never happened.

If I sound a bit irritated, it is because I am a worn-out Comcast Internet and cable customer (I was actually once a happy Adelphia customer who was taken over by Comcast - Adelphia had its problems, but nothing like that I routinely experience with Comcast).

Comcast customer service - which is often an oxymoron -  basically melted down by 2100 EST, with an "all circuits are busy" message when you tried to call them. I first dialed in at 2029 EST, or about 9 minutes after the outage began, and the automated "help" system even then couldn't connect me to a live customer service representative.

Of course, the automated voice did helpfully say that I could check out Comcast's web site for further information and help.

If there is anything that is more moronic than an Internet service provider who you are calling inquiring about the lack of their Internet service sending you to the Internet and their web site for further assistance, I don't know what it is.

In addition, Comcast does not put automated messages when dialing its customer service line that an outage has occurred in your area. Adelphia used to do that. And no, sending messages out by Twitter that there may be a problem isn't an adequate substitute.

Good thing the outage hit last night instead of today - "Cyber Monday."

I know, I know. I should stop complaining and look around for a new Internet service provider if I don't like Comcast, but where I live the choices are pretty limited. However, I think this may be the last straw, especially now with Comcast buying NBC. I can't see Comcast putting any money - or maybe better said - having any money left to upgrade its Internet service reliability or its customer service, both of which are needed.

Anyone else wanting to vent about Comcast (or any other Internet provider for that matter), feel free. The blog line is now open.

And before I forget, Rob Pegoraro's blog has information and links on how to access the Internet when there is a similar type of Internet outage.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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