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RealTime IT News

WorldNet Battles Nationwide Outage

AT&T Corp. confirmed its WorldNet Internet access service experienced a nationwide outage Wednesday affecting the service's 1.6 million users.

The outage, which lasted under 4:30 p.m. Eastern, left thousands of AT&T's WorldNet business customers' offline, unable to contact clients and make regular business transactions. WorldNet subscribers reported that they lost their connections around 8:15 a.m. EST.

A spokesperson for AT&T (T) said the outage was Domain Name Service-related. According to the company representative, the router problem has been repaired and nationwide access has been restored.

The nationwide outage is one of the largest Internet access disruptions to date. This is the second time that AT&T WorldNet services have been set back due to massive technical difficulties.

In January, WorldNet users experienced increased call failure rates as a result of the company's successful advertising campaign in December 1998. An aggressive 3-month network build-out plan rectified dial-up congestion for WorldNet users in 45 U.S. cities where customer demand exceeded AT&T WorldNet capacity.

As more business and home access users flock to the Internet, it's likely that temporary service outages may become business as usual for small and large service providers alike. Both MCI WorldCom Inc. (WCOM) and American Online Inc. (AOL), have experienced massive service outages over the past few years.

In August, it took MCI WorldCom 10 days to reinstate full access for users when a 24-hour planned outage for a network upgrade went awry.

AOL suffered nationally publicized connection failure problems after offering unlimited access in late 1996 and early 1997. In an effort to address user complaints, AOL upgraded its facilities and offered refunds to customers.

Business customers of AT&T WorldNet reported losing their connections nationwide, and some complained that AT&T had not provided an adequate explanation of the problem or an estimate of when it would be fixed.

It's too early to access the financial impact that the AT&T WorldNet outage has had on businesses and holiday e-commerce sales.

Some business owners reported that they intend to change their access from AT&T WorldNet to another national service provider due to the outage. But all Internet users agree, the best way to maintain uninterrupted access to the Internet during a service outage, is to have a second provider waiting in the wings, should service be disrupted.