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Widespread Bright House service outages blamed on 'software bug'

Much of the Tampa Bay area had a busy signal Tuesday as Bright House Networks grappled with widespread service outages.

Internet signals went dead. Cable programs froze. Businesses couldn't run credit card machines. Internal phone lines at the Pinellas Sheriff's Office went down. Even local libraries were affected.

Starting at about 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, Bright House customers throughout Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough and Manatee counties were without phone, cable and high-speed Internet services.

Company officials said service was restored by about 5 p.m., though there were scattered reports from people who said they were still having problems Tuesday night.

One customer in Apollo Beach told the St. Petersburg Times he still didn't have service as late as 9 p.m., and some Twitter users in Tampa also reported they had no Internet.

Bright House officials said the heavy thunderstorms Tuesday morning had nothing to do with the service interruption. Instead, it was a computer issue.

"This was a software bug that caused a cascading effect," said Bright House spokesman Joe Durkin.

Durkin said it was unclear how many people lost service.

"We have well over a million customers in the Tampa market total," Durkin said. "Were they all affected? Of course not. Some areas were not affected."

As residents realized their service was out Tuesday, they took to social media to vent. They flooded sites like Facebook and Twitter with messages about the interruptions. Some even called the newspaper for help.

Some of Bright House's own phone lines were tied up, so people trying to call the company couldn't get through.

"They were continuously jammed," said Poul Hornsleth, president of R.W. Caldwell, Inc., a real estate and insurance company in Gulfport. "Fortunately, it was just a delay."

Even the company's news channel Bay News 9 was frozen midway through a weather forecaster's report.

Pinellas County workers, including those at the Sheriff's Office, said they experienced spotty service with their voice-over Internet phones, though 911 emergency functions were not affected.

"Many of us here in the office reverted to cell phones," spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said.

That's what Apollo Beach resident Ken Cunningham had to do all day. The 59-year-old said he still didn't have TV, Internet or phone service as of 10 p.m. Tuesday. Cunningham, who said he has had about a dozen outages in the past few months, is fed up.

"It's not uncommon from time to time to have some kind of a problem with software or a piece of equipment," Durkin said. "This is probably a rare occurrence in size. … I've never seen anything that has risen to such a level."

Times staff writer Eric Deggans contributed to this report.

Widespread Bright House service outages blamed on 'software bug' 09/06/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 10:48pm]
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