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.