Comcast Business Phone Service Resumes After 5-Hour Outage

Comcast officials said the problem, which affected an undisclosed number of small-business customers, is fixed but still under investigation.

Comcast, Comcast Business Phone, Comcast Business, VoIP, MercuryPDX, service outages, phone service outage

Comcast business phone customers across the United States suffered through a five-hour service disruption on July 12, knocking out business-critical phone services affecting an undisclosed number of small- and midsize-business customers of the cable giant.

The outage was confirmed by a Comcast spokesman, who told eWEEK on July 13 that service was restored by 8:30 p.m. ET on July 12 and that the exact cause of the outage is still under investigation.

The troubled service involved only business voice over IP (VOIP) phone services for small and midsize companies, the spokesman said. The problem appeared to center on a data center which re-routed call traffic and overloaded the system, the spokesman said.

The company would not say how many businesses were affected by the outage, which began about 2:50 p.m. ET and lasted until about 8:30 p.m. ET.

Some business customers had to reset their phone equipment to get their services working properly once the outage was over, but no lingering problems remained on July 13, the spokesman said.

Comcast posted a service update about the outage on its Comcast Business Forum Website on July 12 as the problem unfolded. "We're sorry for the inconvenience today's phone outage has caused to our small-business customers. The issue has been fixed and we're working to ensure that services are fully restored as quickly as possible. We know our customers rely on us and we're committed to making it right. We'll continue to keep this page updated with the latest information on the issue."

The outage did not affect cable television services, consumer cable customers or Comcast Internet customers, the company said.

More than a dozen frustrated small-business owners and workers posted angry notes on the Comcast Business Forum pages and other sites, expressing their worries about the effects of the service disruption on their businesses.

Zack Holstun, owner of MercuryPDX, a package delivery and messenger service in Portland, Ore., posted several notes on the Comcast business site during the outage as he tried to find out what was happening.

"We have been down for a half hour," he wrote as the event unfolded. "The wait time for customer service is over 90 minutes. Is anyone monitoring this board who can give me an answer about progress addressing the outage?"

Later in the day, Holstun wrote that Comcast "customers deserve to know what is going on and you are hiding behind your clandestine customer service policies."

Holstun said he has used phone services from Comcast for just over two years.

He "was really, really, frustrated" when he posted his comments, he told eWEEK. When his company first began with Comcast phone services, there was a persistent echo on the line that Comcast couldn't find, he said. Eventually, the echo disappeared over time.

"I don't think Comcast really knows what they're doing in the phone world," he said.

MercuryPDX, which has about 15 employees, posted notes on its Facebook page and Website during the outage, advising customers to call several cell phone numbers to reach the company until its phone services were restored.

Holstun said he is not yet sure how much business he likely lost due to the office phone outage. "We'll have to call our customers and ask them," he said.

Holstun said he will at least consider and look at other options for phone services for his business, and that in the meantime, he intends to talk to Comcast about what happened. "I'm going to hammer Comcast to see what they're doing about this," he said. "Things are going to go wrong now and then. But my problem is with Comcast using these sub-contractors to obfuscate the truth" when customers call in with problems. "You call and they've got a script they read from."

In April, Comcast announced that it is acquiring DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion as the longtime cable company continues to build its future by adding complementary businesses to steady it as the future of cable television remains unfocused. The deal brings together Comcast with the powerful DreamWorks nameplate, which has produced a wide range of popular animated films, including Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. The merger brings huge opportunities for content streaming to Comcast, which like other cable companies, is seeing its business impacted by customers who are replacing their cable connections with streaming video and original programming from services such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Comcast Cable is one of the nation's largest video and high-speed Internet providers, with about 22.3 million cable video customers and about 23.3 million Internet customers in 39 states. NBCUniversal owns Universal Pictures, entertainment and news cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, local television station groups, television production operations and theme parks including Universal Orlando Resort.