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Dave Roepke, Published July 24 2010

Thousands hit by CableOne phone, Internet outage

CableOne of Fargo said phone and Internet service in the area was disrupted after a botched equipment update earlier this week, causing two days of outages affecting thousands of users.

New equipment is being sent, and crews had hoped to repair service by today in most instances, General Manager Scott Geston said.

The installation of a new computer that’s essentially a giant router connecting homes to the wider Internet created the connection failures, Geston said.

The upgrade gone awry was meant to increase the speed of Internet access. Phone service was also affected because it’s Internet based, he said.

“In an effort to improve our service, we have made matters worse, at least temporarily,” Geston said. “We know how important it is for customers to stay connected, and we are using all of our resources to fix this quickly.”

How fast CableOne can scramble to fix the problem didn’t matter at the Section 9 Cyber Cafe, a downtown Fargo shop that sells online gaming time by the hour.

Tom Schultz, Section 9’s computer engineer, said the outages were hitting them during the day, nonpeak hours sales-wise, but it is a big enough annoyance that they’ve already pledged to change providers.

“It hasn’t killed us, but we don’t really trust CableOne to be up anymore,” Schultz said.

He said many of his friends were in the same boat on Friday – offline, much to their chagrin.

“It’s all over town,” he said.

Most customers should have had access restored by late in the day Friday, according to a news release from CableOne, which is a Phoenix-based company.

Geston said many of the outages were intermittent, so the number of homes affected has fluctuated. Early afternoon on Friday, CableOne’s figures had the number of customers without service at 8,500.

He said there were a lot of complaints.

“It’s been hectic, to say the least,” Geston said.

The outages stem from the upgrade made earlier this week, but wide-spread outages didn’t begin until Thursday afternoon, Geston said.

Frustration about being suddenly cut off from the Internet was a hot topic on call-in radio programs in Fargo on Friday as Web withdrawal took hold.

The service interruption meant problems behind the scenes, too. Radio Fargo-Moorhead, a cluster of six area stations, lost service completely on Friday after spotty connections Wednesday and Thursday, said John Austin, the F-M operations manager.

That made prepping for a morning show more labor-intensive as the headlines to joke about got harder to find, Austin said.

“It puts a hiccup in your day, for sure,” he said. “It’s just such a lifeline.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535