Life on the Internet “Frontier”

Today we all live on the Internet Frontier. Many of us in Connecticut had a reminder yesterday from our major communication provider Frontier Communications Corp.  As reported in the Hartford Courant: Customers Blast Frontier After Internet Outage <read>

Customers of Frontier Communications Corp. in Connecticut complained Tuesday about lost internet service that the telecommunications company said was due to a software update…

Spokesman Andy Malinoski said in an email that Frontier apologizes for the service interruption caused by a software update installed overnight in Frontier’s network.

“We have corrected the issue with the update. Service is now restored. Customers should not have to reboot their modems,” he said…

Complaints from customers were similar to what Frontier endured when it bought AT&T’s wire line business for $2 billion in 2014. Customers then complained about lost connections, mostly related to the bundled service formerly known as U-Verse.

Consumers then filed hundreds of complaints with the state Department of Consumer Protection, state attorney general’s office and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

Frontier offered a $50 credit for Frontier U-Verse customers.

I was one of those customers. The outage was from about 2:00am until sometime between 9:00am and 11:00am. The outage is over, the outrage should continue.  After wasting about an hour, delaying our usual handling of emails and reading the Courant, my wife and I went to town and found our favorite coffee shop and the public green nearby, both without their usual Internet. I suggested trying Starbucks next door. My wife suggested the one at the north end of town, in case it was a local outage. The northern Starbucks Internet worked!  Was it coincidental with Frontier’s recovery or not? I do not know.

What might we learn?

We are very dependent on a very risky infrastructure. Just one bad software update, hardware failure, cyberattack, or insider attack from calamity. This time we mostly dodged a bullet. Nothing terrible happened, that we know of, the whole State was out for a few hours. Meanwhile portions of the state are still recovering from a power outage last week caused by tornadoes and microbursts, that our electric utility, the so called, Eversource claims knocked out more miles of power lines than hurricane Sandy. We are lucky that a company incompetent enough to knock out a state’s Internet from a software glitch took only a few hours to notice it and recover. It could have been a hardware problem or software problem that physically broke some infrastructure or required manual software updates to routers. It could have launched a chain reaction that cause power, telephone, or public safety outages at the same time. Frontier phone systems, delivered by that same wire miraculously did not go down as they often do together.

Imagine if this were a foreign enemy, a cyber terrorist, or a frustrated Frontier employee timing their interruption at the worst possible time or aimed at a particular customer of public facility.  Imagine if this was actually a test, not difficult if you try.

This is costly. $50 compensation for months of outages etc. two years ago.  That is a pittance. You could say the hour we lost was worth $50 to my wife and myself in aggravation and time list.  We are retired. The loss would be much worse if we were employed, a small, or a large business. It could mean lost customers. If the phone had gone down it could, and would likely have killed people unable to reach 911. They touted that customers would not have to reboot their routers. Big deal. Rebooting my router was one of the first things I tried.

Pity the business dependent on Frontier, assuming that such a large enterprise, has Internet expertise could be trusted to support websites for their customers:

Gary Choronzy, chief executive officer of Connecticut Websites, a Branford website design company, said service stopped at about 2 a.m. After a long wait on the telephone, he was only able to confirm that he paid his bill and that the service outage was due to a technical problem.

Choronzy said he could not get connected to a service representative…

“I run my business around the internet,” he said. “It’s unconscionable.”…

Choronzy and other Frontier customers tweeted their exasperation.

“The current Frontier Internet & TV outages across Connecticut, as well as the ridiculously high prices they and @comcast charge are exactly why cord-cutting has become so popular,” he said.

My websites and those I support are hosted by a company that has multiple redundant datacenters and severs across the country.  To my knowledge, in over a decade they have not had anything like a four hour outage.


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