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Glitch catches Road Runner's e-mail

March 8, 2001 

AOL Time Warner Internet customers in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi have seen their e-mail service disrupted since Monday because of hardware problems in an Austin data center.

Many of the 100,000 customers of the Road Runner high-speed Internet service had not received e-mail since Monday morning, when a server at the regional data center in Austin took itself off-line to begin unscheduled maintenance. Normal Web surfing was not disrupted.

Kimberly Maki, vice president of public affairs for Time Warner's Houston operations, said technicians restored service Tuesday but that it continues to be slow because of a backlog of messages. The company eventually decided to replace the server at the heart of the problem.

Karen Alexander, a Spring-area Road Runner customer and consultant to the telecommunications and cable industries, said she worked around the e-mail problem in the last few days by using an older AOL e-mail account she still had. The technical problems made it difficult to keep in touch with her clients from her home office.

"Other than this problem, Road Runner has worked great, but this is still very frustrating," Alexander said. "Once you make the commitment to communicate by e-mail, it becomes essential to your business and personal life. That's why being without it has been so difficult."

Many customers complained that information from AOL Time Warner on the problem was sketchy, at best. The Houston Web site for Road Runner users had several brief updates on the service problem, while the San Antonio site had more detail, although the information tended to be more technical than most Internet users would be familiar with. Recorded phone messages on Tuesday and Wednesday said the company was aware of the problem.

Maki said the company did not want to give specific times when the problem would be solved, given the complex and changing nature of the issue.

"We didn't want to over-promise to customers on the fix, because if you give out a time frame and it's wrong, it just makes things worse," Maki said.

Road Runner has provided service credits to customers who experienced service outages in the past.

© 2001 TOM FOWLER, Houston Chronicle

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