Bresnan black-outs frustrate subscribers

Thursday’s outages swept four-state coverage region

By MIKE WIGGINS
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Grand Valley businesses and residents found themselves cut off from the world via telephone and the Internet most of the day Friday because of a “network storm” at Bresnan Communications.

The outages swept across Bresnan’s four-state service region of Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. Shawn Beqaj, vice president of public affairs for Bresnan, said he didn’t know exactly how many customers were affected, but he said the company provides Internet service to more than 200,000 customers and phone service to more than 125,000.

Digital cable services were not affected.

The outages, which began around 7 p.m. Thursday night and persisted into Friday evening in western Colorado, had far-reaching effects for Bresnan subscribers. People with emergencies were unable to reach police, fire or emergency medical help unless they had a cell phone. Businesses couldn’t process credit cards. School District 51, which is preparing for Wednesday’s official start to the 2009-10 school year, couldn’t take phone calls or e-mails from parents seeking to register students or ask questions. Those folks were forced to drive out to school sites.

Customers trying to reach Bresnan by phone for information about the outage or when service would return were out of luck. Calls to the company’s toll-free number were met with this message: “All circuits are busy. Please try your call later.”

Grand Junction was one of the last communities to come back online, Beqaj said.

Tyler Graff, manager at Trader’s Coffee and Tea, 666 Patterson Road, said the outage hit the business Thursday evening, leaving the business unable to process credit cards.

The coffee shop, though, took the inconvenience in stride and continued selling drinks on an honor system. Trader’s allowed customers who normally use credit cards to pay for their drinks the next time they came in.

“Just because Bresnan’s screwed up doesn’t mean our customers have to get off to a bad start on their weekend,” Graff said. “We’re loyal to our customers, and our customers are loyal to us.”

Graff said Trader’s regained usage of its credit-card machine by mid-morning Friday.

Beqaj said the outages were caused by a corruption of routing cables on a server within a particular network. That corruption then spread to other networks, creating what the industry often refers to as a “network storm.”

He said he didn’t know what caused the corruption but said it couldn’t have been done by someone hacking into the system. A few people called The Daily Sentinel wondering whether the outages were related to President Obama’s visit to Grand Junction today.

Bresnan engineers worked through Thursday night into Friday to identify the problem and restore service. He said Bresnan wanted to issue a “heartfelt apology” to affected customers and vowed that employees are “doing everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”


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