Bresnan Outage – It’s Personal

I’ll try not to get too deep into the massive outage that deprived Bresnan Communications subscribers of Telephone and Internet service for the better part of 16 hours (at least in Grand Junction) on Thursday and Friday.

Shawn Beqaj, Bresnan’s Vice President for Public Affairs, was a very busy man Friday, fielding comment requests from media outlets all over the Mountain West. From speaking with him previously, I know that his company is very concerned with providing efficient and reliable service, and I appreciated his candor when he detailed the root cause behind this week’s problem, which related to a “corrupt routing table” on one server that cascaded to others.

I’m no IT or networking professional, but I would be interested to know if this outage was the result of hacker activity, or something else. Is it coincidental that the outage affected two of the three areas where the President is scheduled to visit? How’s THAT for a conspiracy theory? Perhaps I should start making signs and listening to KNZZ. Scary…

Seriously, when dealing with a problem like this, the process surrounding the mitigation and resolution of the problem, especially as it relates to the people affected, is as equally important as any technology component that may need to be repaired. With that, I was concerned that NO local broadcast media were apparently aware of the outage when it started, or didn’t think it worth mentioning as part of their Thursday evening reporting.

A friend on Facebook brought the lack of phone service, but the availability of cable TV, into real perspective on Friday morning:

Only the most life-and-death commodity they offer. If I have a medical emergency, I will die slowly, but be able to watch “Housewives of Atlanta” as I go.

I believe that any interruption of phone service is a serious matter, especially given the number of Bresnan phone service subscribers who have bought into the “reliability” message as put forward by Bresnan in their advertising. I’ve caught Bresnan in the past doing late night “scheduled maintenance” on their Internet and phone systems, and have let their customer service have it for not making subscribers aware in advance.

Considering the duration and scope of this particular outage, and the seeming lack of notification through the media or other means, I contacted Kate Porras, PIO for the Grand Junction Police, which also operates the county 9-1-1 center. I was curious if they had received any formal notification from Bresnan of a major outage, and if so when that notification was made.

Kate responded that the 9-1-1 center was advised on Thursday evening, but couldn’t elaborate on the manner in which the notification was received, i.e. from a citizen or via a Bresnan network operations person. At about the same time as Kate spoke with me, the GJPD issued a press release that provided some rudimentary instructions for people who had no phone service and needed help.

Yes, many of us had backup in the form of cell phones, neighbors, etc. should the unthinkable have occurred during the outage. Nevertheless, I am concerned about the seemingly cavalier attitude taken by Bresnan regarding a service that is largely perceived by the public as reliable and available in the vast majority of circumstances. The same might be said for our local emergency services, who while aware of the interruption took no apparent action to inform the public until asked about it.

I’m curious as to why a corrupt routing table for a DNS (Domain Name System) routing server would compromise a telephone switch, supposedly located here in Grand Junction, which is connected through what is known as a CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier) to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). That’s about as techie as I am willing or able to get about it, but if I find that my landline phone service is in any way dependent upon the Internet to establish connectivity, I’m going to get serious about a service change.

I think that Bresnan is going to need to do some serious follow-up with its customers. Some in the social networking cloud are calling for a credit to their bill, and I think that’s reasonable. I’m hoping to hear back from Bresnan regarding some of my questions and concerns, and I’ll post an update when I get it.

I’m also going to do some research through the Colorado Public Utility Commission on what resources are available through the state agency that is responsible for regulating and monitoring the activities of Telecommunications services providers doing business in Colorado.

I would have done this before posting, but as luck (?) would have it, the PUC’s servers are down.

Looking forward to the President’s visit this afternoon. Have a great weekend.

ADDENDUM, Sat. 8/15 10:30 AM – The PUC website is back up this morning, and has a comment and complaint page with an associated form. These pages include telephone numbers to contact the commission as well.

According to the PUC website, their jurisdiction in a matter such as this is limited to the provision of basic telephone service.

This entry was posted in Bresnan, Local, Media, Public Safety, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Bresnan Outage – It’s Personal

  1. Tracy says:

    John, I'm a Bresnan subcriber from Billings, Montan. This is the first insight into the actual problem definition I've seen. For some reason, Bresnan seems to be very reticent about giving information concerning this problem. You brought up the possibility of a hacker…and I'd like to also bring up the possibilty that it was incompetence. I received a pre-recorded contentless phone call from Bresnan that told me they were concerned about the outage and valued me as a customer, but said absolutely nothing about why it happened and what they were doing to fix it. Bresnan really needs be forthcoming about this. Several businesses who rely on their Internet and phone service were down for 24-36 hours in this area…it had real economic impact.

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