AT&T's U-verse outage angers Triangle customers

jmurawski@newsobserver.comJanuary 23, 2013 

AT&T customers are seething about a multi-state telecommunications outage that has knocked out TV, Internet and phone service – including emergency 911 calls – for tens of thousands of businesses and households.

In what is now the most widespread outage to affect U-verse since AT&T introduced the service in 2006, subscribers have reported outages since Monday throughout the South and Southwest, covering more than half of AT&T’s 22-state territory.

On Wednesday, as the outage entered its third day, AT&T had still provided scant details and was unable to say when the problem will be fixed. U-verse delivers a “triple play” package, an industry term for cable television, Internet and telephone service using Voice over Internet Protocol.

AT&T said in its latest update Wednesday that a faulty server complex has disrupted service for a fraction of U-verse’s 7.4 million subscribers.

“This issue currently affects less than 1 percent of our U-verse subscribers, but that is too many and we are working hard to fix this,” said AT&T spokesman Josh Gelinas. “We are making progress in resolving the issue which is related to a server complex, and are working to determine when service will be completely restored.”

The outage highlights the nation’s increasing dependency on unregulated telecommunications networks. Many customers have placed their faith in these competing networks as they once trusted utility phone companies that were operated with guaranteed rates and returns.

The extent of the outage could become clearer to federal officials if AT&T submits a 911 outage report to the Federal Communications Commission, as required by federal law under some circumstances. The contents of such disclosures, however, are treated as confidential.

Meanwhile, U-verse customers deprived of home phones are relying on their cell phones.

David Snyder, a U-verse subscriber in Raleigh, said the outage has disrupted his business consulting firm, forcing him to make personal document deliveries and to miss deadlines on business analysis reports.

“I had to put a report on a flash drive and drive down to my client with it in Raleigh and give it to the client,” Snyder said. “My clients don’t care that AT&T service has been out for 3 days. All they know is that I owe them something.”

Snyder said it’s “preposterous” that AT&T is not providing more information.

Callers to the U-verse customer service line are instructed by a recording to reboot their systems or to wait until repairs are completed.

“I’ve called about 10 times now and I just go around in circles,” said Alison Arnold of Cary.

Arnold teaches music appreciation at N.C. State University and relies on the Internet to conduct online classes and to connect with students. She said she has had to drive to public Internet sites or to the university to get online.

Robert Vedell of Cary said his wife is an Internet day trader.

“She hasn’t been able to do any E-Trade,” Vedell said. “Any potential gains she could have made are down the tubes.”

Murawski: 919-829-8932

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