Ranker: Did Internet Outage Affect Your Business?

from Lance Evans

The Orcas Island Chamber was contacted by State Senator Kevin Ranker on Friday, with a business question about the recent internet outages on Orcas Island.

Sen. Ranker, who is the ranking member of the Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee, wants to know if your business suffered any negative impacts due to the outages.

Please reply here via email with a brief narrative explaining if, and how, your business or organization was affected. Ranker will be meeting soon with executives from CenturyLink, and your comments will be important for that discussion.

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Ranker: Did Internet Outage Affect Your Business? — 33 Comments

  1. I have a small business that processes warranty claims for dealerships. I could not get to the internet and lost over a day’s worth of business. In addition I contacted CenturyTel on thursday July 4th to tell them we had an outage and they said there was no outage. I spent 2 hours on the phone with Centurytel trying to run “speed tests” for their engineers.

  2. The internet outages over the past few weeks have been a real trial for us at Four Winds Camp. Obviously, summer is our busy season. Parents have been trying to email us and our staff have had limited access to email. Our database is in the cloud and we’ve had limited access to that. Plus we’ve been spending time trying to get in touch with Centurylink, or messing around with tethering on an overloaded cell network, when we should be paying attention to our counselors and campers. My last gripe is that Centurylink has been pretty horrible in how they’ve handled this. They’ve been stingy with information, claiming that we’re the only ones on the island affected. I’ve tweeted to them, they ask me to Direct Message them details, then they don’t respond to the DM. In order to run a business in 2013, you need reliable internet access, and these last few weeks have been tough.

  3. I have a similar situation as Sharon (above comment). I also called Centurytel on the 4th. and spent at least 1.5 hours with two different techs. Neither of them acknowledged or knew of the internet outage. Instead they had me to speedtests, modem swaps, etc. They were somehow convinced that the problem was at my location when all I wanted to know was whether there was an internet outage. The company needs to look at its internal communications!

  4. I don’t even bother to contact Centurylink tech support anymore. The experience is too painful and rarely brings any relief from an Internet problem. Typically on the phone for an hour and by the end you are back to similar questions to the ones at the beginning or being given suggestions of things to try which are too ridiculous to contemplate.

    It would be the least Centurylink could do to inform their customers of 24 hour plus outages. They are the phone company. I wouldn’t mind an automated call informing me of the problem and expected duration.

  5. I agree with Martin Taylor…I don’t even bother to contact them because they are so unresponsive that it makes me want to go to another ISP server, but I know that they (the alternative) wouldn’t be much better. Albeit, CenturyLink is frought with problems that they, apparently, are not in a hurry to address because they have a captive audience with us on Orcas. How about a massive, group phone call, at the same time of day, to voice our displeasure with their service? Nothing like the populace voicing our opinion!!! That will get their attention! Let’s try it.

  6. I failed to receive a report I needed to work on. My office phone is connected to Vonage which means I do not get calls from clients. Several projects I needed to focus on were all related to access via the internet. In speaking with a neighbor to some of the others above, that it was all their fault. By the time I called the next day I got the usual automated call that said there was an issue, they were working on it and that was all they knew. I then insisted on speaking with someone, unlike during the last outage. I must say that although he was a nice young man, he could not help me at all. I did not spend much time on the phone with him. He told me he had received several calls, there was something wrong with the system and that was all he could tell me.
    It would be nice to have options. This level of service is totally unacceptable.

  7. I am a visual artist who enters a number of juried shows each year. The majority of my sales happen at these shows. Entries to most shows now adays are done on-line and require uploading high resolution jpgs of my work. I missed a deadline for a major show this summer due to the internet not working properly. Even when the connection was “fixed” it was so poor and intermittent that I couldn’t upload my photos and application. I live in Deer Harbor and have monitored my mbps for over a year. Though I pay for 10mbps, I rarely get more than 2 or 3mbps, and frequently get less than 1. I have asked Centurytel how I can get a refund, since I am paying for something I rarely receive. I’ve been told that though I pay for 10mbps, there is nothing in the contract that says I will actually get that speed. I feel that this is a consumer fraud issue.

  8. Thanks, Kevin, for looking into this.

    My experience mirrors both Sharon’s and Jim’s. I run a consulting business that requires internet access to communicate with clients elsewhere. On the morning July 2, I spent more than an hour on the telephone with CenturyLink running speeds tests for them before they admitted that they were going to “expedite” the issue because the problem was not at my house. Then I spent more time on July 5. Fortunately, I was able to camp out in the Library parking lot to get free WIFI to get over the hump in service on both days.

  9. My thanks to all those who have expressed their thoughtful points here, or emailed the same to the Chamber. I will be compiling everyone’s comments and submitting them to Senator Ranker on Monday.

    Clearly, the sporadic service we’ve endured has struck a chord, and I’m glad our Senator is seeking comments from his business constituents (and everyone else affected).

  10. Orcas Online did a masterful job. Though our internet was out one evening, it has been on all week, and it seems that the evening was due to a linkage problem from Centurytel that caused all of the island to lose DSL. Thanks to Rick for keeping us going!

  11. Has anyone had experience switching to and using HughesNet satellite internet provider, Centurytel’s only local competitor? They currently offer 10 mbps download speed and 1 mbps upload speed for about $49 per month.

  12. We are trying to maintain our national law practice despite the consistently noisy telephone service and unreliable and limited DSL service from Century Tel. As noted above, the “customer service” at CenturyTel is worse than useless. This is a continual struggle, and this past week has just been the tip of the iceberg. The plan to continue to grow low-impact businesses here (like ours, or consulting) is dead on arrival unless we can get our telecommunications up to what is considered the minimum in other communities.

  13. P.S. It seems that CenturyTel, having obtained a local monopoly in the form of the telephone utility, should have to satisfy certain minimum standards or surrender the telephone utility to someone that can.

  14. Though I live on Orcas, as the founder/owner of a leadership training organization based in Seattle, I am actively involved in various decisions and communications which have deadlines attached. Recent outages have caused me to miss deadlines. I pride myself on punctuality, accountability, especially regarding deadlines, as there is a trickle down effect. One of those deadlines involved getting a contract to a large client. Luckily, they were gracious. It’s time for Century Link to bring their A game. They’ve been hovering around a C- or D.

  15. I rely on feeds from remote servers beginning around 5 a.m. to conduct my business. Outages recently–not just last week–have caused me many lost days and severely damaged the trust my clients put in me; last week I was able to work only ONE day, and there were several brief outages that day, as well. Like others, I have heard from CenturyLink that service is “exhausted” in my area with no plan to improve service, meaning demand has exceeded supply indefinitely. I can only conclude that they have oversold hookups to reach this stage, an outrageous practice that should put them at full liability for the lost income and damage to credibility they’ve caused their customers. Thank you, Kevin, for stepping up on our behalf.

  16. This is rich – After two hours with CenturyLink customer “service” – running the usual tests, getting disconnected, starting over with another (very nice) tech, I was told that the problem seemed to be “BROADWIDTH EXHAUST”. Explains everything!

  17. And Century Link is the group that OPALCO is negotiating with to be a subcontractor for their fiber optic system? With the worse customer service on record?

  18. I emailed Lance about my husband’s business’ challenges due to the many – not just recent – internet outages…and…after reading all these messages I feel I must also speak up here and say that we, too, have had multi-hour-long phone calls with CenturyLink in which they have basically said the same thing to us as they have said to the folks above: that our issue is ours alone, blah blah blah. And that our Apple suite of hardware is to blame, or some other ridiculous notion. And then we spend way too long on the phone call testing bandwidth or whatever and nothing gets accomplished except for increased levels of aggravation. I moved here from Seattle with an eye on building a virtual business consulting practice (working from my home office via internet-based tech such as web-meetings, etc.) and quickly had to abandon that notion after suffering from uber-poor internet connectivity. This island needs new ways to boost its economy and virtual businesses could help serve that need. Those will never get up and running however without the top-most necessary tool – a robust and DEPENDABLE internet connection. Thanks Lance for gathering this all and forwarding it to Senator Ranker.

  19. My business has suffered significant losses because of service outages and slow connection speeds. We are a mail order business. When century tel cuts us off or degrades our service we cannot process orders, pay postage ship products or collect payment. Our customers are then better off at amazon. My employees have to go home without pay because there is no work, or the stay at the office collecting wages for an undetermined amount of time waiting for century tel to come back up. My home service costs nearly $60 for “1.5” megabits” and it is rarely over 0.7. I have called repeatedly and they won’t fix it. I can’t do any video streaming and my web based phone often doesn’t work because of the low bandwidth. I wonder sometime what will happen if there is a fire and my 1.5 mb service can’t dial 911. We need help, Kevin! With some muscle behind it — severe fines and shutting them out of more lucrative markets in WA until they can meet established service levels everywhere in speed, cost and reliability

  20. I make almost half of my salon haircut appointments by email, and Facebook. My business suffered from the loss of this service. I have become so tired of the loss of service and or outages that most days just gave up trying to connect all together. I also spent countless hours on the phone with Century-tel. Only to be told it would be the next day, 2 days, or up to 4 days later before service would be restored. I called Century-tel on Friday the 5th of July and asked for a refund of my monthly internet fee. The response was to ask me how many times have I called in, as that would make a difference in the amount refunded. I would reply with my own question of “how many outages in June did Century tell have in my area?” “How many hours total were the outages?” I would get no response only a complete refund of the month of June for the internet charge. I realize that those working at Century-tel are doing the best they can to keep us connected however I am not going to pay for the days they were unable to provide me with service.
    Thank you for allowing us to tell our internet story. Just think only 10 years ago it would take days to load one page and now I am complaining about days out of service.Oh how the winds of change has allowed me to become so dependent on the internet.

  21. SO! For all those who do not know, Mt. Baker Cable offers Internet Service through the cable line. It is easily and often consistently 2x to 3x faster than dial up. and during the past week when the Internet was on the fritz, they were out here at our place three times to troubleshoot the connection. Excellent service. You have to have a cable hook up (cable TV line) to use their service.
    They are based in Bellingham.

  22. No one may read this, as it’s now late Monday. Being frustrated with Centurylink a few months ago, I returned to Orcas On Line’s wireless system that I’d had a few years ago. The issue there is that not everyone can receive the signals; no harm in checking it out, however.
    I’m happy, until fiber comes along, which it eventually will.

  23. CenturyLink is testing all of our patience with their poor service and lackluster support. I especially find it frustrating to deal with their support technicians, who are less supportive and more accusatory than ever. It’s like they’ve been instructed to make the customer feel like they are the source of the problem!

    Every time I have called their technicians play ignorant and refuse to recognize that there is a recognized outage. One time that I called (out of MANY): Even though the automated recording said there was a recorded outage, I dialed “0” to be put through to a tech anyway so I could find out how much longer it would be until service was restored. Imagine my surprise when the technician claimed there WAS no outage, and NO RECORDING! Yes, apparently I was hallucinating my internet outage and the recording……..

  24. I think they call this “deja vu all over again.”

    While I am glad that Senator Ranker is looking into this issue however, I believe he is a day late and a dollar short. This has been a worrisome and growing problem for years in this county that has paralleled the Senator’s political career. Better now than never.

    My story: My business interests have not been much affected, because my servers are located at a small ISP in Friday Harbor that had the foresight to build a physical fiber optic line that ties directly to the OPALCO trunk running down Blair Street. They did this years ago, before Century Telephone became CenturyLink and service quality became worse than ever.

    The OPALCO infrastructure, in partnership with regional commercial bandwidth back-haulers bypasses CenLink completely and provides a straight uninterrupted path to mainland hubs that do not seize up from bottlenecks created by the phone company’s useless system.

    I was directly involved in negotiating the deals that built this infrastructure years ago, having done so in rural communities all over the United States prior to that. I was contracted by OPALCO in 1999 to help them design the program. The Economic Development Council also received state funding back then to promote telecommunications competition in San Juan County, during the Locke administration.

    However, over time, other policy priorities took precedence, Puget Sound Partnership, eco-tourism, scenic highways, CAOs and so forth. The result being that the single most powerful job creating resource the county began to develope in the past decade is now languishing. The economic impact of not finishing this job is huge.

    Meanwhile Century Link’s antiquated technology and lack of service continues to control our communications and is causing real harm. TI look forward to the good Senator’s proactive solution to move this community forward. This will take real leadership.

    Please, this time, let’s get it right. OPALCO has been in the locally owned and controlled business of pushing electrons since the 1930s. They can also be in the business of pushing photons. They don’t quite have the business model where it needs to be but they are getting close.

    The current situation is unnecessary and unacceptable and will take a bit more than a little political theater to fix.

    But it can be fixed.

  25. After years of overpriced terrible service I was able to switch to Verizon Home Fuzion as there is new signal in my neighborhood and the price and speed are way better. It has only been available for a few months. You have to go to a Verizon store to set up a signal test. Only a few will get the signal but I hope it helps someone.

  26. Do you have a good Verizon connection on Orcas? I just purchased their Jetpack 4G and it is fabulous. I can tether up to 10 devices using WIFI in my house and they have great speed. The Jetpack is a little smaller than a package of cigarettes and has ~10 battery life beside 110v. So, you can take it with you as well.

  27. I have the opportunity to work from home several months of the year. By having this opportunity we purchased a home on Orcas 4 years ago. When I am here, my entire family is here. We help the local economy, our children are active in the community, etc. I am unable to meet my employers needs and our customers needs when I cannot connect. On the 5th I had to set up my wifi hot spot at Cresent Beach and work until both laptop and hot spot died, then back to the house to charge and so forth. I too called Century Link on 2 occasions and were put through the paces of testing, etc. This is unacceptable and really puts our community in a negative light. What about all the rentals that promote their connectivity – all it does is create a negative impression of our local businesses, rental pretties, etc. someone’s ability to work from home or run a business from home is next to I swivel without a reliable Internet. When I asked about a credit on my bill, I was told to call back when the outages were over. Why waste more of my time.

  28. I split my time between Beijing and Orcas…the Internet is a critical part of my business, and is the essential utility that makes it possible for me to work from here. I’ve only been back now for a few weeks after five months in China. The CenturyLink Internet service has been appalling in that time….outages, glacial speeds, etc. In China, the Internet is heavily regulated…measures are taken regularly to thwart VPN efforts around the country’s firewall….connections to international sites are painfully slow at times…this all leads to significant business frustration. But at least in China, pretty much everyone acknowledges the problem….it may be the elephant in the room, but everyone knows it is there. CenturyLink…I don’t bother calling their abysmal support any longer as they often won’t even acknowledge the problem. At this point, I’ll take the censored and intentionally crippled Chinese Internet over CenturyLink’s service…I can’t imagine that this would make any CenturyLink executive proud.

  29. I have an insurance broker business and the slow and down internet connections I’ve experienced has impacted my business and the affairs of my customers.

    I was unable to generate quotes and enroll employees of one of my small business clients. I was unable to file a claim for another.

    I did not contact CenturyLink customer service because I heard from several friends and business associates that calling them was frustrating and ultimately worthless.

  30. I call CenturyLink when ever there is a problem. This last time they gave me a free month of DSL. In the past month I have experienced six days of outage, and spent several hours on the phone with them. The front lines are usually clueless. As I get handed up the food chain at their customer service and tech support, eventually I end up with someone who says something like: “Ho yeah, we know about that. We should have it fixed within 24 hours.

    What I would like is a message up front that says We know there is a problem, it is a problem with X, and if we don’t have it fixed in 4 hours we will credit you for a month of DSL. And then automatically do the credit without my needing to call. The pain should be on their side, to incentivize proper investment in and management of their network.

    I would like Senator Ranker to create some legislation that requires a high level of performance by the for-profit communications companies, and when it isn’t being met, credits are automatically issued.

  31. I have spent the past YEAR, yes year dealing with Centurytel over internet issues of constant outages & very very slow speeds. I have spent numerous hours on the phone with Centurytel supervisors, & even the regional supervisor & his supervisor. I always get conflicting replies of there is no outage, its your modem (which is supplied by centurytel), or you are the only report we have had. Last week I spent 2 hours on the phone with Centurytel only to have them tell me my modem needs to be replaced & then find out there is an area wide outage. They can never seem to get the story straight. Last July I spent over 3 weeks without internet because of old equipment they are using, & they made me feel “special” cause they gave me a whole $10.00 off my bill for the issues. I pay over $200.00 a month for bundled service & they gave me a WHOLE $10.00 for the inconvenience. Their issues are literally costing me thousands of dollars a week in lost business. When I spoke to a Century tel supervisor this morning he told me that they have had a repair ticket open in my area (Rosario) for over a year now & it still hasnt been corrected. With century tel growing & buying up other major communication companies why cant we get the service we have been promised & pay every month for. They are sure quick to demand money from us for our phone & internet but they wont provide us with what we are paying for. In addition to the internet I have also been having lots of “noise” on my phone line, which century tel told me is a result of no or damaged filter on my phone line. I have replaced the filter 5 times and it changes nothing. And of course each filter I have to go out & buy, heaven forbid they give us that equipment with our service. As long as they get our money regularly & promptly they don’t care about anything else.

  32. I am the Owner/Broker of Windermere Real Estate/Lopez Island – a small office of five agents serving Lopez since 1982. Yes, internet service to the downtown “Village” sector of our island is having a difficult time this summer with interupted internet service, usually in the morning between 9 am and noon. Our business relies heavily on being able to send and receive correspondence and documents quickly and efficiently and it is most frustrating when the service we pay for is not adequate. The maximum available to most of the Village is 1.5 MB – and this is our main business district.

  33. I live in Lopez Village, so losses from long copper line issues shouldn’t be an issue. I work extensively with colleagues in Africa and Washington DC over the internet, frequently using WebEx to do presentations. High reliability is essential for my work. Century Link outages have caused gaps in my communications. Also, while I pay for 8 Mbps, I have never seen higher than 4.8 Mbps.