|Some Woodbrook residents were without cable, Internet and telephone for almost four days last week.|
A 90 hour Comcast service outage that began Friday July 29, 2012 at approximately 9:00 p.m. caused problems for some Woodbrook residents. The outage was triggered by a storm, known as a derecho, that swept through much of Virginia and its neighboring states.
To obtain a better understanding of the effect of the almost four day Comcast outage, we surveyed Woodbrook residents by email on Tuesday July 3, 2012 just moments after Comcast restored service to the neighborhood. Residents were asked to report on the services they lost; cable, Internet or telephone, and to comment on how the outage affected them.
34.1% of respondents said that they lost telephone service for over 90 hours.
Of the approximately 40 homes responding to our survey it’s not surprising that 88.7% reported that they lost cable TV service. Comcast is the primary supplier of cable TV service in the neighborhood. In the remaining two service categories, 54.6% of respondents reported that they lost Internet service during the outage while 34.1% lost telephone service. Almost 80% of residents said they contacted Comcast about the outage with roughly a third of those reporting that Comcast was helpful when they called. Resident Lee Freudberg echoed the frustrations of many residents during the outage, “Comcast service has improved considerably over the years, but their responsiveness to this outage was virtually nil. I called at least once daily. If they had provided at least some explanation of what was going on, updates, etc., even if recorded, I would have been less frustrated,” said Freudberg.
We also asked residents if they felt that their safety had been compromised during the outage, with 11.2% indicating they did, or roughly a third of residents that have their telephone service with the company. Keep in mind that temperatures were near the 100 degree mark during most of the outage. Resident Marlene Hopkins said “safety is a big issue, especially with the heat and when all three (phone, cable and Internet) are provided by Comcast.” Jenny Mathews said, “I only really minded that the telephone didn’t work. What about people who have no cell phone? This sort of thing makes me want to change telephone service.”
For many residents, cell phones were only helpful for out-going calls.
While many residents used cell phones as a backup for lost telephone service, this solution was only helpful for out-going calls as many residents do not publish their cell phone numbers. Cristiane França who was out of the country at the time of the outage became concerned when she lost contact with her father who was house-sitting for her. “I sent emails that he could not check and called from out of the USA and could not get through because the phone was not working,” said França. “He was also not able to contact anyone,” she added. França eventually contacted her father through a neighbor. “About 4 days without being able to communicate with my father as well as him not being able to contact anyone else was very disturbing,” she said. Another resident reported that “Expected calls from doctors and therapy centers were not received.”
The loss of the Internet was of more concern to some. Clayton and Ann-Rodes Savage reported that they “have a home business that [they] could not access.” Kathy Welch, who telecommutes, reported that she was “unable to work for two days.”
Some residents are reconsidering their service arrangements.
The outage caused some residents to reconsider their service arrangements. Resident Denise Benson said, “The length of time we didn’t have cable or Internet has made me seriously consider changing internet provider and canceling my cable.” One neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous said, “At least we don’t have Comcast for our Internet, so we were able to track news and weather updates through our Internet. We would have been totally “in the dark” (literally and figuratively) if we had everything through Comcast. We thought about switching Internet and phone over to Comcast recently, and we are so glad we did not.”
Not all the responses to our survey were negative. Resident Susan Wilson’s comment, “I am very grateful for all the Comcast and Dominion workers who labored under unbelievable conditions to restore our services in as timely a manner as possible,” was echoed by several neighbors. Lynanne Wilson reported that, “Our phone (a good old plugin land line) was always available (Century Link) despite the power outage.” Our own tests showed that Century Link kept their telephone and Internet service up and running during the entire power outage.