Comcast Outage Knocks East Coast Offline Pre-Cyber Monday

Comcast customers from Boston to Washington, D.C., lost Internet access late Sunday evening due to an issue with the DNS servers.

Comcast subscribers up and down the East Coast lost Internet access on Nov. 28. While the company said access was restored, there were still a handful of users reporting issues as of Monday morning.

Comcast's customer service initially reported an "Internet-related issue" on Twitter under the account Comcastcares late Sunday evening before following up with, "Internet outage larger than just Boston."

The network outage appeared to be widespread, "primarily located in New England/Greater Boston and DC/Beltway areas," Comcast spokesperson Charlie Douglas told eWEEK. According to various reports from affected users, the region included New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.

Twitter complaints started around 8 p.m.

Based on the Twitter feed, Comcast appeared to have fixed the problem shortly before midnight, just in time for Cyber Monday, a big day for online holiday shopping. Comcast engineers are carefully monitoring the service to make sure there are no other outages, Comcast said.

Instead of waiting for a Comcast fix, some enterprising customers figured out a workaround to regain Internet access. They posted the IP addresses of DNS servers belonging to Google Public DNS or OpenDNS on Twitter and encouraged users to swap out DNS server entries from Comcast on their computers to these addresses to get back online.

Comcast said the problem was confined to the company's high-speed Internet service, and did not impact its digital TV and telephone services.

Word of the outage first spread cross social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as outraged users turned to their smartphones and other mobile devices to post their complaints. Comcast's customer service representative, Will Osbourne, tweeted to users as ComcastWill that the engineers were putting in a fix around 10 p.m., but did not provide an ETA.

Comcast declined to say exactly how many customers were affected by the outage. According to the Baltimore Sun, Comcast spokesman Bob Grove said additional staff was brought in to fix the problem.

"We certainly apologize to any customers who were affected during this time," said Douglas.

Comcast has been instructing customers still experiencing problems to power-cycle the modem, said Douglas. Also on Twitter, Comcast customer representative ComcastMelissa offered replacement modems to users. In addition, she responded to angry users complaining about the poor customer service they'd received over the phone during the outage. Many of them appeared to be demanding, and getting, some kind of credit on their service bills.

According to CNET, Douglas said the problem was a "server issue" but declined to specify what the specific issue was with the DNS servers that translate IP addresses into domain names, allowing users to surf the Web. Comcast will "continue to investigate the root cause," Douglas said.

There were also Twitter postings from small businesses in Portland, Ore., about not having Internet service as of noon on Nov. 29. Douglas said they were "unrelated local issues."