Internet outage sparks outrage
Comcast Internet service for many Roaring Fork Valley residents and businesses went down again with the second train derailment in four months near Winter Park.
Saturday’s 16-car derailment of a coal train headed to Chicago didn’t cause any injuries. But it did disrupt the travel plans of hundreds of people ” train passengers headed to Glenwood Springs, among other places, were bused to Wyoming ” as well as local business operations. Comcast services were also cut off between Aspen and Parachute, in Winter Park and Fraser.
Michael McVoy, a financial advisor at Raymond James Financial Services in the Aspen Business Center, said his brokerage reverted to dial-up service to help clients.
“It’s a great inconvenience when [Comcast] is not up,” he said. “All my basic systems and how I access everything normally has to be rerouted in order to have access.”
The business uses the Internet to place trades and gather financial information.
“If necessary, we go to a dial-up modem instead of our DSL service. We have backups so our clients don’t suffer,” he said. “[They] can still execute any transactions or get any information. It just might take a little bit longer.”
Comcast’s local Internet service went down shortly after the accident around 1 p.m. Saturday in the Moffat Tunnel near Winter Park. Service was out from there to Battlement Mesa, Comcast spokeswoman Cindy Parsons said. The company expected to restore it Monday or this morning.
“Crews are working diligently to restore the service as soon as possible,” she said Monday. “This one was out of our control.”
But Comcast customer Doug Lee, who lives in Aspen Village, questioned that sentiment.
“Accidents happen. But why can’t they reroute our broadband communications through another circuit?” he asked. “Why don’t they reroute us through Grand Junction? Why don’t they have a plan B?”
He mentioned the train derailment near Kremmling in October that also severed a fiber-optic cable, knocking out Comcast Internet access to the valley. Lee said that outage took four or five days to fix. But the circumstances surrounding this interruption in high-definition TV and broadband Internet services are different from the Kremmling incident. In that accident a train derailment cut the fiber. In this instance, cleanup crews severed the fiber, said Cindy Parsons, a spokeswoman for Comcast.
The latest mess has affected Lee’s travel plans to Oregon.
“I have things that I have to do before I go. There’re things I gotta look up, e-mails, all kinds of things.
“It was miserable trying to call Comcast tech support. These guys are with the Michael Brown school of management,” he said, referring to the disgraced FEMA director. “This is unacceptable; this is the second time it’s happened.”
He noted that a natural disaster could also hit the rail line, and that it is “standard operating procedure on networks to have another way around the problem.”
Parsons said Comcast is studying backup options and is “committed to developing a redundancy plan.”
Regular cable services were not interrupted.
“Different technology is required for the higher-end services,” Parsons said.
While an accident like this has happened twice in the last four months, Parsons said she doesn’t recall it happening before and doesn’t think it’s a particularly common occurrence.
Mark Davis, a Union Pacific spokesman, said the cause of the train derailment remains under investigation. In addition to removing the rail cars, crews had to replace nearly 1,000 feet of track.
Fiber-optic cables and similar infrastructure often run alongside railroad tracks, Davis said.
“It’s historic that communication lines have followed railroad rights of way ” all the way back as far as the telegraph,” Davis said. “A lot of it is where the railroads operate. A variety of companies have used the railroad rights of way as a place to put the cable. Unfortunately in this case, the cables were in harm’s way.”
McVoy agreed that it would be helpful if Comcast implemented a backup system. He said he has a new awareness of trains and their misfortune.
“I never realized so many trains derailed until my Internet kept going out,” he said.
Parsons said crews were working and services should be restored by this afternoon.
Post Independent staff contributed to this report.
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