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ISP Push to Reconnect Portland Customers After Destructive Storms

At least 2,000 customers in Portland, Ore., have been without Internet or cable TV service since snow, ice and windstorms hit the region Jan. 13. Internet service providers say they expect to restore all service within the next few days.

Crews work to remove a downed tree in Cedar Mill, Portland, on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, after a snow and ice storm.
Beth Nakamura | The Oregonian/TNS
(TNS) — At least 1,500 Comcast customers in Portland have been without Internet or cable TV service since snow, ice and windstorms hit the region Jan. 13. About 500 suburban customers of Ziply Fiber are still offline, too.

Both companies say they expect to restore all service in the next few days, but customers who depend on Internet service for work, school or to do everyday tasks online say they’re exasperated that it has taken so long.

“The southwest hills have really great tree canopies, so there’s been a lot of destruction, but you kind of wonder whether Comcast really has an adequate network in terms of how they’ve done their wiring,” said Sarah Beasley, who lives in the Bridlemile neighborhood of Southwest Portland.

Comcast said Wednesday it has restored 95% of its regional network and hopes to finish the work this week, except in the few areas where electricity service remains out. It did not specify just how many customers are still without Internet or cable TV.

“We aim to get the remainder of our customers back online by this Friday, as our technicians regain access to necessary parts of our network,” said Comcast Oregon spokesperson Rachael Arnold.

Comcast often had to wait until electricity lines were repaired before its own personnel could start work on its own outages, according to Arnold.

“Once the network power is restored and the utility companies clear the area, we can begin our repairs – pending our technicians have safe access to damaged sites and poles,” she said.

Comcast will offer credits to customers who experienced “prolonged” outages after electricity service returned, Arnold said: “We will determine the criteria for credits once service is restored to all customers.”

A retiree, Beasley said she has used up all the data on her cell phone plan and is going without news, TV and playing Wordle and other online games. And she’s becoming more aware of just how dependent we are on Internet service for all kinds of basic interactions with friends, family and businesses.

More than 500,000 Portland General Electric customers have experienced at least brief power outages since the snow, wind and ice storms hit the region earlier this month. Most of them lost Internet service, too, when the power went out.

Nearly all PGE customers had power restored by the start of this week, but at least 6,000 subscribers to Comcast’s Xfinity internet service were still offline Saturday. More than 1,500 remained without service Wednesday afternoon.

While Beasley went without power for several days after the storm, she still had a small gas stove and fireplace insert to cook and keep her warm. Now that she has electricity restored, she can charge her phone but can’t do much else with it.

“I do sort of feel more aggrieved without Internet than without power,” Beasley said. She said the absence of status updates has been especially frustrating.

Electric and gas utilities are subject to local regulation, and Portland’s water service is owned by the city. Internet service is largely unregulated, though the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission does have limited oversight of cable TV service in Multnomah County and also works to resolve concerns about Internet service. The commission said it has fielded about a dozen calls about outages at its complaint line, 503-823-5385.

Since the storm, subscribers without home Internet service have used their smartphones to post loudly and often on Internet forums about Comcast’s unresponsiveness to their concerns and about their frustrations with the company’s automated customer service lines.

“Of course, you can’t talk to anyone at Comcast. You can’t get past the robots,” Beasley said. “I would like a daily estimate of when my service is going to be back up.”

About 10,000 Ziply Fiber customers lost service after this week’s storm because of local power outages, according to the company. It said 95% of them came back online when the electricity did, but about 500 remained without service Wednesday in areas with more severe damage.

The company said it has brought in crews from outside Oregon to assist with the repairs.

“We expect to have all remaining customers restored by this weekend,” Ziply said in a statement. “Customers who had service impacted by the storm will be credited on their account.”

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.