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‘Fiber cut in Brooklyn’ said to be cause of massive internet outage

January 27, 2021 Tali Arbel, Matt O'Brien and Frank Bajak, Associated Press, and Raanan Geberer, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Internet users across the northeast U.S. experienced widespread outages for several hours Tuesday, interrupting work and school because of an unspecified Verizon network issue.

A site that monitors online outages, downdetector.com, puts the height of the outage at around 1 p.m., with the situation improving by 4 p.m.

The service interruptions were at first thought to be caused by a cut fiber in Brooklyn.  “There is a fiber cut in Brooklyn. We have no ETR, as of yet. You can use the MY Fios app for updates,” Verizon Support said on Twitter.

Many Verizon Fios users who also posted on Twitter were skeptical. One Pennsylvania user, Thomas Ward, tweeted, “I’m confused, how would a fiber cut in Brooklyn be affecting the entire Northeastern US region? Unless you’re stating that this fiber cut is one of the primary links for the entire region.”

A Virginia user, Berndan Peccoralo, said, “Agreed, Brooklyn fiber cut wouldn’t do this as far south as Northern VA unless this was a long-haul cut coming to/from a NYC carrier hotel.”

A new Brooklyn resident, David Bixenspan, also weighed in. “How much of Brooklyn is this affecting? It just moved and my service is set to be turned on at the new address tomorrow.”

Regardless of the cause, according to the online publication The Hill, Brooklyn was one of the areas that generated the most complaints.  “The areas reporting the most issues are Brooklyn, Baltimore, Philadelphia, D.C., Pittsburgh, New York City and Northern Virginia’s Arlington and Alexandria. It is not clear if the fiber cut is what caused the whole outage.”

Disruptions to internet services are always a hassle, but have become even more excruciating as the pandemic forces millions of people to work from home and students to attend school remotely.

Diana Gaspar’s daughter in New York couldn’t connect to her online classroom because their home internet was spotty for a couple of hours in the afternoon, although her daughter was able to log in with Gaspar’s phone.

“We didn’t see it as a major issue,” Gaspar said. “The only inconvenience was me not having my phone.”

For the Fairfax County Public Schools in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, teachers and students found workarounds, such as switching to another instruction platform if one wasn’t working, said spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell.

At Galvin Middle School in Wakefield, Massachusetts, a suburb north of Boston, teachers sent students pen-and-paper assignments if there were internet problems, said Trish Dellanno, reached at the school by phone. “Teachers have been able to keep on moving. They’re going old school.”

The outage affected internet and cloud providers as well as major sites such as Google and Facebook. Amazon, whose web services division powers a wide ranges of online services, indicated its network wasn’t the cause of the problem and that connectivity issues for its Amazon Web Services customers were resolved around 12:45 p.m., after an hour and a half. Google said it also had not found issues with its own services and was investigating.

The East Coast outages began at 11:25 a.m. local time and recovery began at 12:37 p.m, according to Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik, a network monitoring company. He reported a 12 percent drop in traffic volume to Verizon.

Madory said he did not yet know if other carriers were impacted. Comcast, another major internet service provider, said it had not observed problems with its network Tuesday. AT&T did not immediately reply to questions.

Cary Wiedemann, a network engineer who had connectivity problems at his home in Northern Virginia, said that some online services could have been disrupted even if your home internet still worked, if the issue was with the backbone of Verizon’s network.

“If Outlook works but YouTube doesn’t, whose fault is it? Verizon’s fault. But that’s not obvious from the onset,” he said.


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