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.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.