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Posted 25 Feb 2010 20:10:02 UTC

2600 has become the victim of what is either an example of epic incompetence or sheer malice on the part of Verizon. Whichever it is, we have suffered devastating losses as a result of their inability to restore connectivity to us since severing our Internet connection on Monday. As our website is run at a different facility, we're able to get this information out to the world in this manner. However, all of our email as well as access to vital files necessary for the completion of our Spring issue has been cut off since Monday. In addition, orders on our store and ticket sales to The Next HOPE have been seriously disrupted.

The irony of this is that we're not even a Verizon customer. Or perhaps, that's the reason this is happening in the first place. In the past, we've had DSL circuits with other companies, only to have Verizon come along and "accidentally" cut the wires. We would then have to wait for them to fix the connection. On at least one occasion, a Verizon repairman told us that this wouldn't happen if we "had only used Verizon in the first place." Such mob-like tactics have been reported by multiple individuals and one has only to chat with owners of any competitor of Verizon to hear many such horror stories. It's all made possible by the fact that Verizon (in our area, at least) continues to own the actual copper that many of these circuits make use of.

In this particular case, an outage of unknown origin occurred on Monday. It was initially blamed on Time Warner Cable, which now appears to be inaccurate. Verizon apparently isn't able to tell when their own circuits go down so they had to be notified by our DSL provider. However, even when it's obvious that something is wrong, Verizon won't even open a ticket until someone physically turns the modem on and off. On this occasion, we had nobody on site to do this and we basically had to wait an entire day for someone to get to the location so they could perform this useless action so that Verizon could finally start their job. Which they then said they'd get around to on Wednesday. All day Wednesday, our DSL provider was on the phone with them (on hold, mostly) and all they were told was that a technician "had been dispatched." We had people walk around the area looking for such a technician and we were even able to find one who was out on another call. That Verizon employee told us that this was the only call he was aware of in that vicinity. Even when presented with this evidence, we were told Verizon claimed to be on the job and had a "commit time" of 5 pm. Shortly after 5 pm, Verizon said they would dispatch someone first thing Thursday morning, since union regulations prohibited them from dispatching someone after 5 pm. Which basically means they were lying the entire time they said a technician had been dispatched, since they apparently weren't even going to start the job until Thursday!

To be fair, outages are frequent in New York City and they're not always Verizon's fault. Cables get cut by construction workers, there are power failures and water main breaks, and transformers and manhole covers explode on a regular basis. It's par for the course. What's exceptional here is that a company with a near monopoly in the business isn't on top of the situation when it happens, and has to basically be guided through the entire process by the end user. Verizon's lines failed on Monday, yet they wouldn't even acknowledge this fact until Tuesday and didn't do a thing about it until Thursday (supposedly). As of this writing on Thursday afternoon, we continue to be completely cut off with no explanation. We're still waiting for answers but, since we didn't choose to use Verizon in the first place, we're not even able to talk to them directly.

The unfortunate reality here is that this is forcing us to sever our connection with Hurricane Electric, a dependable and friendly DSL provider that we've been with for many years. However, we just can't continue to operate under these conditions so we will be moving these servers to our existing colocation facility in the very near future. We're sad to have to do this and we wonder how many other competitors to Verizon have lost customers due to similar circumstances. And we wonder when Verizon will suggest that we subscribe to their FIOS service to avoid such unfortunate circumstances in the future.

As to the effect this has had on 2600, much mail is being bounced as we technically don't exist on the Internet. If you've sent us something on Monday or later, you'll probably have to send it again when this nightmare finally ends. Preregistration tickets for The Next HOPE conference have been unable to be sent out since we have no email service to communicate with attendees. This is also true for any order placed via our Internet store. Orders can be placed but fulfillment is stalled so if we need to verify information or answer any questions, the order is on hold. It will take some time to get through the backlog once this is all over. Speaker submissions for The Next HOPE have also been interrupted. If you've emailed us any speaker or panel suggestion anytime this week, you will likely have to resend it when we're back up. (Look at the end of this piece to see if/when our service was restored.) And, of course, as this is deadline week for the Spring issue of 2600 where numerous emails are sent back and forth between lots of people, this disruption has been especially disastrous for us. In the event that this causes us to miss our deadline with the printer, we will lose our place in their queue and either be forced to come out late, missing valuable weeks on the newsstands, or have to pay thousands of dollars more to jump the line, expedite the printing, and stay on schedule. We have a similar problem with the new 2600 book, due out by the HOPE conference in July but which needs to have key decisions made now, all of which is in jeopardy due to these communication issues. We're doing everything we can obviously to communicate via other means (telephone, personal visits, even Facebook), but it's impossible for us to know who's trying to send us an urgent message via email when we can't see the email.

Clearly there are a number of things we could have done differently to limit the damage Verizon's actions (or inactions to be more accurate in this case) could cause us. Redundant systems, communicating through Google or some other corporation instead of running our own mail server, or simply not keeping our machines in our own possession. All of these options require investments of time and/or money or the act of compromising something we strongly believe in, namely the ability of the end user (us) to run things themselves in their own facilities. By moving our machines to someone else's facility as we're now forced to do, we no longer have complete control over them. If an injunction is filed against us, action could be taken against our servers before we even know what's happening, whereas before we'd at least get a knock on the door. We honestly don't expect this to be an issue but it's a step we were hoping never to have to take.

We apologize for all of the disruption this has caused, not only to all of our users and the many coordinating mailing lists that we operate on our site, but to our readers and customers who have been cut off as well. It should be noted that Verizon offers no compensation for such outages, despite what many of us believe. We can only imagine how many other people have to live with Verizon's horrible business ethics, people who don't have the means to communicate through alternate means to such a large and technically adept audience. If there's any good to come out of this, perhaps other victims can feel empowered to also speak out and gain a forum where their stories might be heard and action taken to prevent this sort of thing from recurring.

Please guide people to this story and/or repost it in other places if you feel compelled to do so. Also, please keep checking back here to find out when our service was finally restored. In fact, we will post that info right here.

Verizon service outage on February 22, 2010, finally restored on February 25th at 6:00 PM EST.

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