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Comcast Outage: A Retraction (Updated)

Yesterday, we posted an article about the service outage that Comcast's customers suffered. We knew that there was an outage of some kind, and we knew that it was affecting a large area in and around New Jersey. We called around to people in the area, and a local Comcast customer service representative confirmed the outage, though that person wasn't forthcoming about its scope.

In our post, we ran an image of the outage map showing that the service interruption was incredibly widespread, hitting multiple areas of the country, and we used that to affirm the outage's scope. With our own legwork and that image as sources, we ran our story.

However, I incorrectly believed that the image was sourced from Comcast. It was not. It came from a third party site that tracks those sorts of things, but not from Comcast itself, which is a fact I learned after we published.

Of course, we had reached out to Comcast for comment and clarification, as is our standard practice, but the company did not reply. (It still hasn't.)

Because the image on which we based a key point of our article was not one we ultimately could stand behind, and because Comcast did not confirm, deny nor clarify what was happening with the outage, we felt that we had to pull the article.

Some of what we wrote was definitely true. The rest, it turns out, was probably true, and we probably could have safely left the article up, but "probably" doesn't cut it.

Without an outage map or a comment directly from Comcast, we could not ethically leave the story up. Because the outage story is over and done with by now, there's little point in trying to salvage it, but because we want to be transparent, I am writing this retraction.

It is ultimately my job as the news chief to be the gatekeeper for what we post in the Tom's Hardware news feed, and I failed in this case.

It's my hope that readers will, at least, take this note as evidence that we're dedicated to getting it right, every time, and that if we can't correct a mistake, we'll at least own up to it.

Update, 6/26/15, 9:10am PT:Multiple Comcast representatives have now reached out to us regarding this situation. One of the reps was clear that, despite multiple reports to the contrary (including the one we retracted), the initial outage was limited to areas around New Jersey. It did not spread to other parts of the country. (If there were any other outages, the rep indicated, they were small, isolated, and unrelated to the NJ outage.)

Another rep stated that the outage began sometime before 8am ET in the aforementioned area. He said that the length of the outage varied by neighborhood, with some residents getting their Internet service back within an hour, with others waiting until "afternoon."

The cause of the initial outage appears to have been related to software. "It was a software issue. Our engineers detected it proactively and remedied the problem as quickly as possible," he said.

Another Comcast rep pointed to a storm that hit the area Tuesday night as a separate source of continued, or new, outages for customers. She said that many people lost power, and thus Internet service, and she said that Comcast had their trucks out ready to address the situation but had to wait until power was restored and law enforcement deemed it safe enough for them to enter affected areas and do their work.

The first rep I communicated with added, "We are very sorry about the recent interruption to Xfinity services in some Jersey Shore areas. We know customers rely on us and we fell short of their expectations. As an apology, we are automatically crediting $5 to all customers who were impacted. They do not need to do anything to receive the credit – it will appear on one of their next bills."

Some outages related to the storm appear to persist. A Comcast rep added, "There are still areas that are without power. For the vast majority of customers, service will restore after power comes back up." That statement seems to indicate that some customers won't have their Internet service back up right away even after power is restored, but he inferred that Comcast is fixing its service as quickly as it can following power restoration.

Seth Colaner is the News Director at Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter @SethColaner. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • dstarr3
    My little notification counter in the top right is stuck at 1, I believe because of the article being taken down.
    Reply
  • rgd1101
    Just go to your tracked threads and click mark all as read.

    Anyway have Comcast business at work and didn't have any issue yesterday.
    Reply
  • jaber2
    I am glad you bring that up, I however don't work for Tomshardware or anyone else, here is the latest map
    https://downdetector.com/status/comcast-xfinity/map/
    Reply
  • dstarr3
    Just go to your tracked threads and click mark all as read.

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • HideOut
    They havnt replied because they cant. They dont have interwebs...
    Reply
  • bhauck
    The issue with the image was not that it didn't come from Comcast, but that it was, deliberately or accidentally, manipulated so as to completely misstate the scope of the outage. It's still available here: http://www.tomshardware.com/gallery/comcast-outage-map,0101-506229-0-2-12-1-jpg-.html . The site it was sourced from (https://downdetector.com/status/comcast-xfinity/map/) has an insane zoom setup. As you zoom out, the outage dots grow and increase in severity. If you zoom out sufficiently, you can show three copies of the world, each with an enormous red dot blocking off the entire Eastern Hemisphere. This retraction completely ignores the troublesome possibility that the person who pulled the image intentionally zoomed it to a level that would look like there was a huge, severe outage.
    Reply
  • Vosgy
    The issue with the image was not that it didn't come from Comcast, but that it was, deliberately or accidentally, manipulated so as to completely misstate the scope of the outage. It's still available here: http://www.tomshardware.com/gallery/comcast-outage-map,0101-506229-0-2-12-1-jpg-.html . The site it was sourced from (https://downdetector.com/status/comcast-xfinity/map/) has an insane zoom setup. As you zoom out, the outage dots grow and increase in severity. If you zoom out sufficiently, you can show three copies of the world, each with an enormous red dot blocking off the entire Eastern Hemisphere. This retraction completely ignores the troublesome possibility that the person who pulled the image intentionally zoomed it to a level that would look like there was a huge, severe outage.
    Wow just had a look at that, it is bad, the real questions is at what point are the blobs correct, cause you can zoom in really far then it's just effecting a few blocks.
    Reply
  • vagrantsoul
    outages have been rampant in my neighborhood for three weeks now, making telecommuting to work (a 2 hr drive each way) necessary to get any work done, hoping that they have cube space for me... Called comcast and no response, asked the contractors up in the poles what was going on, and was actually told off... Comcast is lucky that we have no options in this development other than them... can't wait to move.
    Reply
  • Poplook
    My xfinity X1 Comcast cable TV, Internet, and phone has been completely down since I got home last night June 23 at 7pm; Called Comcast tech support they informed me of an outage in my area of San Mateo, CA. My Comcast modem didn't even register in there system, to try to reset the modem; they schedule a technician house call for Thursday June 25, 2015 between 2 & 4pm.
    Reply
  • WFang
    I can understand why Comcast isn't forthcoming with a statement, especially if they have multiple wide area outages. That does not mean it is not happening, and if anything, some investigative journalism to try to uncover more facts would be interesting. At any rate, Comcast isn't likely to openly admit to a severe ongoing issue, and them being Comcast, I don't see them disclosing anything like a detailed statement even after the issue is fixed. . Perhaps some investigation could be done of indirect sources, and if it seems like there still is a degree of widespread outages in many major metropolitan areas, follow up with a new article, that makes it clear that its based on investigative journalism and that the information thus could be suspect, I'd still read it and find it interesting.
    Reply