RealTime IT News

MCI Outages Cause Support Nightmares for ISPs

Up to 30 percent of MCI WorldCom Inc.'s commercial customers are complaining of lost business as a result of data transmission disruptions that started late last week.

Access problems ranging from slow data transmission speeds to no access at all, allegedly resulted from a frame relay system software upgrade in development with Lucent Technologies, Inc.

First reported as a fiber cut on an old MFS network in Columbus, Ohio, several T1 lines were out of service in Charleston, W. Va. Initially, the lines were back in service on the same day, but MCI has released little data on the overall access outage or the fiber cut.

According to a the UUNET network status report, MCI WorldCom is experiencing intermittent frame relay outages across the United States. From time to time, these outages may briefly affect UUNET dedicated customer connections.

Regional ISPs have reported that traceroute returns from New York to Columbus, Ohio, indicate 10 to 30 percent service disruption levels and deem the problem chronic, not episodic.

MCI WorldCom senior network engineers are currently working to resolve the problem and restore service. Both MCI and Lucent technicians are said to be feverishly working on resolving the predominantly East Coast outages.

The problem is reminiscent of a similar outage in AT&T Corp.'s frame-relay network last April. That breakdown affected thousands of corporate customers nationwide and damaged the company's reputation for reliable online service.

Eventually, AT&T blamed the outage on software flaws that occurred when the carrier attempted to upgrade one of its switches. AT&T spent millions of dollars in advertising and marketing campaigns to reestablish their credibility within the marketplace.

According to the Wall Street Journal, MCI executives said that customers in large East Coast cities like Atlanta and New York have been the most affected by the service outages.

Meanwhile, local and regional ISPs that subscribe to MCI/UUNET dedicated services are facing the wrath of their respective clientele. Many ISPs provide uptime guarantees to their customers and some are calculating refunds that could severely limit third quarter earnings.

Jason Horton, Intercom Online Inc.'s senior systems engineer, said UUNET has dropped any inbound traffic to Intercom since Monday.

"Our clients have been unreachable for us and so far MCI/UUNET has been slow to offer any reasonable explanation beyond the software upgrade." Horton said. " I have many a customer hopping mad at me and (have) no answer as to when UUNET is going to fix their access."

Horton has worked to resolve the problem by turning down their UUNET interface and rerouting traffic bound for UUNET IP's through other providers. But that does not change the fact that the company has money-back guarantees in place for their customers.

Many reputable local and regional ISPs are scrambling to determine how much the MCI/UUNET service outages will eventually cost companies is refunds, credits and customers.