(Host) A Colorado company offered the first explanation today for outages that left its Vermont customers without Internet service three times in less than a month.
As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, the company says the outages were highly unusual and unexpected.
(Sneyd) Level Three Communications operates a sophisticated network that connects its customers – and their customers – to the World Wide Web.
When that network failed on May 20th – and then twice more this week – thousands of Vermonters were unable to sign on to the Internet or make long-distance telephone calls.
Level Three hasn’t offered an explanation until now. Company Vice President Chris Hardman wouldn’t take questions, but read a statement.
(Hardman) " These unfortunate, but coincidental outages are highly unusual. Level 3’s fiber rings provide back-up service in case of outages. To have outside influences cause outages on both sides of a fiber ring at the same time is extremely rare.”
(Sneyd) The "fiber ring” is essentially a pair of fiber optic lines. One carries all of the Internet and long-distance phone traffic of Level Three’s customers in and out of Vermont. The other is a backup if the first fails.
Hardman says Level Three had an outage on the primary line on May 20th. While that was being repaired, a piece of network equipment on the other side failed. He didn’t explain what that equipment was or what happened to it.
After four hours, service was restored.
Then, on Monday of this week, two separate calamities hit Level Three’s network serving Vermont.
(Hardman) "One side of the fiber ring was damaged by a fire in a manhole in New York City. While this cable was being repaired, we experienced a second outage on the other side of this same fiber ring, apparently caused by damage to a fiber cable during bridge construction in Pennsylvania.”
(Sneyd) Hardman says that left about 1,000 customers without Internet and phone service for eight hours.
But many more individuals were affected because most of those customers operate a single computer network for a much larger group.
The state of Vermont is a single Level Three customer, for example, but thousands of its employees rely on the company’s fiber network.
The same is true for an Internet service provider like Power Shift Online of Stowe. Consumers can buy an account to get on the Internet with Power Shift. But their on-ramp to the information superhighway is operated by Level Three.
Hardman didn’t say if Level Three will make changes to prevent future problems.
(Hardman) "We regret any problems caused by these outages and will continue to work hard to avoid such problems in the future.”
(Sneyd) He also says the cause of a 20-minute outage on Tuesday is still being investigated.
For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.