Internet and cell phone outages continued to frustrate Santa Fe for a second snowy day on Friday as homes and businesses felt the sting of a nationwide problem with corporate infrastructure giant CenturyLink.
But one local provider was still steadily connected to the ol' interwebs.
Thousands of customers who use Cyber Mesa’s service in Santa Fe are not affected by the outage. Jane Hill, company president since 1991, says Cyber Mesa connects to the internet with two paths. Its path through CenturyLink went dark along with most everyone else’s, but the company has been able to keep the traffic moving another connection, through circuits that belong to the state of New Mexico and from Albuquerque through a company called Level 3.
"It's a separate network and it didn't go down," Hill says.
The Level 3 network was formerly owned by CenturyLink, too, but in June became part instead of Unite Private Networks, a provider headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. The US Department of Justice required CenturyLink to sell off the network asset along with others as part of an anti-trust case.
Hill says CenturyLink has to pay wholesale customers like Cyber Mesa for big disruptions, but she tells SFR there's little information even for her about what's gone wrong.
“There’s not much on the news yet and I wonder if we will ever know,” she says. “It could be kind of two sets of things: Somebody decided they were going to update the router code and it got sent to all the routers and it was a mistake and they had trouble getting back into the routers to correct the mistake. That is one speculation; a pure speculation. And the other is there some kind of cyber attack, in which case they will never own up to it.”
The company has issued a series of vague explanations about the outage, including this one on Twitter Friday afternoon:
While Comcast and CenturyLink have the most customers of providers in the city, Hill says small companies like hers are still working hard to make local investments that matter.
In a case like this one, the redundancy paid off. About two years ago, Cyber Mesa installed new fiber to the New Mexico Department of Information Technology on St. Francis in a deal with the state that gave the company and the government access they needed—and that was an alternative to the previous arrangement with none other than CenturyLink, Hill says.
Affected CenturyLink customers include the city of Santa Fe and its police department. On Thursday, email communication for those workers was spotty.
On Friday, the director of the Federal Communications Commission announced a number of 911 call centers were affected by the outage, but the Santa Fe Regional Emergency Communications Center did not immediately report problems.
City Manager Erik Litzenberg tells SFR he checked in Friday afternoon again with the police and fire chiefs.
“It did sound like maybe our dispatch center was affected a little bit by the outage, but for us there were no operational issues,” he says. “Our emergency services were going off as planned.”
Email and other internet functions also seem to be mostly back normal, he says, and notes the day without service was not insurmountable.
A bigger problem, he says, would have been dealing with a snow storm that hit hard Friday morning without the benefit of either city internet or cell phones, serviced by Verizon, which depends on CenturyLink for most of its service.
Christus St. Vincent hospital also experienced just a few snags Thursday night that affected the public phone system and wi-fi calling, but never a complete outage, says spokesman Arturo Delgado.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement Friday saying the agency's public safety staff will open a probe into the matter.
"The CenturyLink service outage is … completely unacceptable, and its breadth and duration are particularly troubling," said Pai in a statement. "This inquiry will include an examination of the effect that CenturyLink's outage appears to have had on other providers' 911 services. I have also spoken with CenturyLink to underscore the urgency of restoring service immediately."
CenturyLink retorted via Twitter: