From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 106, Number 12 - March 19, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Internet problem persists

by Stephen Crane

The Internet is a modern innovation that’s now ingrained in daily life. That growing daily dependence can also be a serious inconvenience, particularly when the Internet crashes for days on end.

Beginning on Wednesday, March 11, those residents and businesses relying on CenturyTel’s Internet services were missing out or browsing at a snail’s pace after a problem in Montana had a rippling effect to services here in Pinedale.

There have also been other prolonged outages over the past several months in the area.

The voice message of the local CenturyTel office that greeted local customers confirmed the trouble: “Our DSL is still having problems. It is very slow, even though you can still get on. They are working on it, so hopefully they will get it fixed today.”

As of Monday, the message was still being played at the local office, though the Internet service had dramatically improved.

“Without getting technical, there was an Internet switch in our network that was causing the disruptions,” said Kim Valiquette, CenturyTel’s regional representative for Wyoming. “And it was fixed with a software fix.”

Other than that, Valiquette was unable to provide specific reasons for the problem, except to say that the technical description she was given by the company was difficult even for her to understand.

For those in Pinedale who rely on the Internet for business and personal needs, this isn’t the first time the CenturyTel’s Internet services have been disrupted for multiple days. And for local businesses, those disruptions have had a harmful effect.

“It’s affected us big time,” said Pat Schwab, operations officer for the Bank of Sublette County, on Friday. “We can’t open new accounts. We can’t get into check account balances. We haven’t been able to do much today.”

The bank was forced to transport all the materials that required online access up to its Jackson branch, since “they’re not on CenturyTel at all.”

Ridley’s Market also ran into problems through the latter part of the week, causing slowdowns for days.

“It really impacts us,” said Val Ercanbrack, Ridley’s store manager. “We have backup systems, where we go on dial-up. So when we go to the backup, it just makes it slower.”

Ridley’s pharmacy was most affected, since it relies on the Internet to confirm insurance co-payments for customers.

“It made it very slow,” said Ercanbrack. “That slowed us to maybe a half-hour per prescription.”

The switch to dial-up also slowed customers at the checkout counters and prevented a few people from sending money by Western Union.

“Credit card, debit card, Western Union — it was all on the dial-up system,” said Ercanbrack. “The ATM had problems too. We had a couple people say they couldn’t use the ATM.”

When Ercanbrack called CenturyTel for information on the problem, he was told the Internet would only be down a couple of hours, “and that was two days ago,” he said on Friday morning.

“As for equipment failures, we can’t always determine when those will happen,” said Valiquette. “But we also work as quickly as possible to bring our systems back up if there is an issue.”

CenturyTel also installed a new fiber optic line last fall that the company is working to bring online “sometime after April, maybe into June.”

“We’ve seen very high growth in usage of the existing broadband in the Pinedale area,” said Valiquette. “And the growth exceeded what we had available.”

According to Valiquette, the new line should increase the speed dramatically for Internet users in the area.

For those residents and businesses affected by the recent system failure, CenturyTel’s customer service representatives said that credits are available for “each day that you were out.”

Steve Ahlborn, however, CenturyTel’s business customer service representative, confirmed that a one-time courtesy credit of $150 is available to business customers, though nothing was officially announced within the company.

“It’s based on individual circumstances basically,” said Ahlborn.

For residential users, the credit will likely be based on the few days that they were without Internet services.

“(The outage) affected quite an area, and it’s a cascading effect,” said Ahlborn. “It seems to have been resolved, and we’re always willing to work with (customers) on that.”

— For CenturyTel customers wishing to receive credit on their loss of Internet service, call 1-800-201-4099 for residential and 1-800-201-4102 for business, or call 1-877-480-8582 for businesses seeking the one-time credit.

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