Early risers on the East Coast were greeted with an Internet outage on Wednesday morning. For Time Warner Cable users, this is hardly an unfamiliar occurrence; what makes Wednesday’s outage remarkable is that it affected a large number of the 14.5 million T.W.C. customers nationwide.
A representative for the company said in a statement that the outage occurred at 4:30 A.M. Eastern Time, and that it happened “during our routine network maintenance.”
“An issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services,” the company said, adding that it was largely resolved within an hour and a half. (Naturally, users reported issues for some time after that.)
Experts say the limited number of Internet service providers—and unimpressive bandwidth speeds—available to many Americans is a major issue. “This outage sheds light on one of the most significant challenges facing the United States: our lack of a plan for world-class, stable, resilient communications capacity,” Susan Crawford, a professor at Cardozo Law School, visiting professor at Harvard Law School, and former adviser to the Obama administration told VF Daily. “The cable operators—particularly the giant Comcast and the number two, Time Warner Cable, who themselves hope to merge—have gradually consolidated and control every element of the network infrastructure carrying their services.”
Time and time again, the United States ranks below other developed nations when it comes to Internet infrastructure, broadband penetration, and speed. In 2013, President Obama announced a plan for “Four Years of Broadband Growth,” aimed at tackling some of these issues. Wednesday’s outage provides an obvious—and ominous—reminder that the nation’s networks are not exactly shored up.