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Customers lose Sympatico e-mail


May 11, 2001

E-mail service for all of Bell Canada's 200,000 high-speed and dial-up business customers in Ontario and Quebec was unavailable during office hours yesterday because of a technical glitch, the company said.

The disruption occurred at 6 a.m., according to Cathy-Anne O'Brien, Bell's manager of media relations, and affected incoming e-mail only. Businesses could send mail, but incoming mail simply stopped, starting again about 3 p.m. for some Sympatico users. The entire service was restored by 5 p.m.

Bell's Sympatico high-speed residential customers were not affected by the e-mail problem.

The company has not determined the exact cause of the failure.

"We don't know the exact cause yet," Ms. O'Brien said, adding it appeared to be an equipment failure that led to the problem.

Numerous small businesses that rely on e-mail communications said the outage had an impact on their ability to get work done on time.

"Our business was seriously disrupted," said Jack David, co-owner of ECW Press, a Toronto book publisher that has used Bell's high-speed Internet service for several months.

Ms. O'Brien said Bell would compensate businesses on "a situational basis." The firm guarantees its business customers a return to service within 48 hours. Yesterday's outage lasted about 11 hours.

"We have not been giving any thought [to compensation]," she said. "Right now our main aim is to get the service up and running again."

Chris Weisdorf, president of the Residential Broadband Users' Association, which represents high-speed Internet users, said 48-hour service guarantees are not good enough given the reliance many businesses have on e-mail.

"Forty-eight hours without e-mail can seriously hamper business," said Mr. Weisdorf. "What if your phone service was down for that long? It simply wouldn't be acceptable."

by Robert Thompson, Copyright © 2001 National Post Online


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