Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 10, 2013

Internet outage hits Grand Traverse gov't offices, businesses

BY MATT TROUTMAN
mtroutman@record-eagle.com

— TRAVERSE CITY — An Internet outage left several Traverse area Charter Communications fiber optic customers without the means to send emails, take payments, check out library books and perform the thousands of other everyday tasks now requiring online access.

"We weren't completely brought to our knees, but it was close," said Traverse Area District Library Director Metta Lansdale.

IT professionals in TADL's Woodmere branch, Traverse City and Grand Traverse County governments, and Cherryland Electric Cooperative walked into work this morning to find their Internet services through Charter off-line.

Charter spokesman Bill Morand said technicians are "still digging" into the problem.

"It appears to be a fiber issue," he said. "There appears to be a possible relationship in the customers affected."

Fiber optic lines handle more bandwidth and are considered less prone to outages than cable connections.

Don Sheehan, IT director for Grand Traverse County and Traverse City, said Charter representatives told him the issue stemmed from a recent software update sent to routers. He said the city and county lost Internet on Monday at 10 p.m. and it returned today about 2 p.m.

"We're definitely going to be talking to them about the issue that happened there," Sheehan said, before adding, "We have been on them seven years and as far as I know it's their first down."

Sheehan said the outage affected city and county workers far beyond the offices on Boardman and Woodmere avenues -- police and sheriff's deputies couldn't use their in-car laptops for criminal background checks.

Cherryland Electric Cooperative IT Director Steve Weaver said the power company couldn't take customer bill payments over the phone or access usage statistics. He said the situation underscored the importance for the co-op to budget "redundancies" to avoid future outages.

"The system wouldn't even require the flipping of a switch," Weaver said. "If one disappears, boom, it will automatically roll over."

TADL's Woodmere location was the only branch affected by the outage. Computer lab assistant Roxanne Simoni estimates between 40 and 60 patrons come to the library to use the Internet each day, and today was no exception.

"We had people in and out all day trying to get online," she said.

Technology Director Scott Morey said its services switched over to a backup line, but many patrons looking to book an hour of Internet time still had to wait. He said many walked downstairs to watch DVDs to wait for the Internet to return.