Internet Traffic Surge Triggers Massive Outage on East Coast

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A broadband internet outage triggered by a surge in traffic hit a wide swath of the eastern U.S. on Tuesday, causing headaches for work-from-home users of services such as Zoom and Google.

Complaints centered on Verizon Communications Inc., which acknowledged the difficulties, though customers of providers like Comcast Corp. also said they suffered some problems. Comcast said it didn’t see any effect on its network related to the outage.

The disruptions started shortly after 11 a.m. New York time, when an unidentified large internet company made an adjustment to its peering system -- or traffic pathway -- causing an unintended surge in volume that overwhelmed several networks mostly along the East Coast, according to a person familiar with the situation. It wasn’t a cybersecurity issue, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

The Covid pandemic has made broadband outages especially painful. High-speed internet connections have become a lifeline for millions of office staff, students, health-care professionals and others who use broadband to work remotely.

Tuesday’s service disruptions reached a peak at about noon New York time, then began to ease. Verizon didn’t elaborate on the cause of the problems, but said an “internet issue” affecting its Fios service in the Northeast had been resolved.

“Network performance and service levels are returning to normal,” the company said on Twitter.

DownDetector, a real-time monitoring service, showed a surge in reports of service interruptions Tuesday from Verizon and other providers, with a spillover to popular websites like Google, YouTube and Zoom. The problems appeared to be concentrated on the East Coast.

Google said earlier that it was investigating the disruptions, which didn’t stem from its products.

“We are aware of reports regarding issues affecting access to some Google products, but have not found issues with our services,” a representative said.

Read more: Verizon falls after posting disappointing subscriber figures

The problem for Verizon was especially ill-timed for a company that just reported disappointing results on Tuesday morning.

The carrier’s shares slipped as much as 3.4% to $56.41, marking its biggest intraday decline since March 2020.

In response to questions about the blackout, Verizon said earlier on Twitter that it suffered a cut in a fiber line in the Brooklyn area. It later said the resolved internet disruption was “not due to any issue previously stated,” suggesting the severed fiber line wasn’t the cause of the widespread problem.

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