Charleston area businesses recovering from widespread Comcast outage, but want answers

**FILE** Comcast's name hangs in the lobby of its state headquarters in this Nov. 3, 2005 file photo, in Sandy, Utah. Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable TV operator, reported a 28 percent increase in second-quarter profit Thursday, July 26, 2007 as it saw a surge in subscribers for digital TV and its promotionally priced package of TV, Internet and phone services drew in customers. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac, file)


Companies in the Charleston area are recovering today from the roughly 10-hour Comcast outage that left some firms unable to communicate Wednesday, and some restaurants unable to process credit cards at the height of Spoleto Festival USA.

“You can only imagine the lost revenue and the panic with restaurants, bars, hotels, and such who rely on this cable service and had to take credit cards on the faith that the funds were available,” said Mitchell Crosby of JMC Charleston, in an email to clients and vendors today.

Crosby said the Comcast outage meant that his event planning company had no phone, email, internet, fax, or credit card processing from roughly noon to 11 p.m.

Still unanswered are questions about the details of the widespread outage that ranged across the Charleston area from Mount Pleasant to Goose Creek to Walterboro, and why it took so long to repair.

“The loss of commerce from that incident, to me, it’s unconscionable, and this community’s owed an explanation,” said Ernest Andrade, director of the Charleston Digital Corridor and the city’s director of business development.

He said he had yet to hear from Comcast, as of late this morning, in either his capacity as a customer or as the city’s top tech official.

“If we are positioning ourselves to be a tech center for the Southeast, these are issues that need to be investigated and explained,” Andrade said. ”I think Comcast has got to be a little more proactive.”

Shannon E. Dulin, Comcast’s senior manager for Government and Regulatory Affairs, said that “a fiber optic cable owned by another communications company was severed by construction crews doing work on a bridge along Highway 17 south of Charleston” and a back-up circuit failed as well.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused,” she said. Dulin would not identify the construction company that severed the line.

In Charleston, the city’s Flagship business incubator building on East Bay Street was hit by the Comcast outage, and Andrade said the experience will have them looking into redundant services that would serve as back-up systems in case of future outages.

Of course, for those who were not relying upon Comcast, the outage was no big deal, and some even benefitted.

“We had an influx of people come in to watch the hockey game, the basketball game and use the Internet,” said Derek Zito, general manager at the King Street Grille. “We beat last year’s numbers.”

At North Charleston City Hall, free wi-fi service for the public went off-line due to the Comcast outage, but the systems used by city employees kept on working.

“AT&T is our provider, at City Hall,” North Charleston spokesman Ryan Johnson said. “Our internet service rarely goes down.”

Brendan Kearney and Nicholas Watson contributed to this report.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.