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TMCNet:  Scattered Internet Outages Frustrate Businesses, Web Surfers in North Kitsap

[June 04, 2010]

Scattered Internet Outages Frustrate Businesses, Web Surfers in North Kitsap

POULSBO, Jun 05, 2010 (Kitsap Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- For some, when the Internet stops, work stops.

That was the case Thursday afternoon for some in the Poulsbo area. Spotty CenturyLink Internet failures affected about 30,000 customers here and in southeast Washington who are served by a fiber-optic Internet line.

How long the outage lasted depends on who's asked. The company records show the outage lasting an hour; some who use the service say the outage was at least four times that long.

While an Internet connection may be a luxury for some, business people who rely on online transactions believe it's a vital function to their enterprises.

"I would argue that the Internet is as essential to business as electricity," said Ed Stern, whose work for E.K. Riley Investments ground to a halt Thursday.

Stern, also a Poulsbo city councilman and an advocate for better broadband access, believes more systems should be in place to provide Internet connection redundancies and prevent widespread or long outages.

Lack of redundancies was also an issue in March, when a barn fire in Olalla melted a Comcast line and knocked out Internet service to most of the Kitsap Peninsula.

"One fire takes out Internet to the entire county," Stern said.

Comcast has since said it has installed a planned redundant line.

Thursday's CenturyLink outage was not the first in recent months since the company, formerly CenturyTel, purchased telecommunications company Embarq.

Randy Chafe' of Suquamish, who owns shoplocalbiz.com, said he's experienced long outages four times since the switchover from Embarq.

"All of a sudden it comes to a screeching halt," he said.

Naturally, working on his site (which directs people to deals at Kitsap businesses) is pretty much impossible without the Internet.

CenturyLink spokeswoman Lisa Willis said a problem with main fiber-optic lines in Hood River, Oregon, caused Thursday's outage. A redundant line was installed there several months ago and was switched on Thursday. She said company data showed the outage lasted one hour and speculated that longer outages could have been because modems needed to be reset or other reasons outside of the ISP's control.

"We do have redundant routing now," she said. "This is something that shouldn't happen as often." Grousing about telecommunications companies is an American tradition. Any number of complaints about any Internet provider is just a search away on Twitter, Facebook or Google.

There isn't a service provider out there free from someone's scorn.

To improve business, reliability and speeds, Stern believes broadband connections should be more regulated, and viewed as utilities. He compares broadband to roads. If private companies were allowed to build our highways -- and toll them as they pleased -- "where would we be with our commerce today?" With online work can come an always-on ethic. Chafe' admits an outage can be good at times.

"Maybe I should go out and relax," he said.

To see more of the Kitsap Sun or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.kitsapsun.com. Copyright (c) 2010, Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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