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Glitch in AT&T Internet Service Hits 200,000 Customers

November 9, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ In the latest outage to hit the Internet, a computer glitch at AT&T’s online service prevented more than 200,000 customers from receiving e-mail for almost a day and a half, AT&T Corp. said Friday.

The trouble, which started at 2:35 p.m. EST Thursday, was traced to a computer that handles electronic mail for AT&T’s WorldNet, the nation’s second-largest provider of access to the Internet.

By 10:15 p.m. Friday, the problem had been resolved, said AT&T spokeswoman Patty Allen, but not before it affected about half of WorldNet’s 425,000 subscribers. It did not hurt their ability to send e-mail, except if they tried to send mail to another WorldNet customer affected by the brownout.

Customers shut out of e-mail still could perform other functions, such as surfing for online information.

No mail was lost as a result of the problem because it is being stored in other computer databases, Mike Miller, another AT&T spokesman.

The Internet brownout was the latest in a series of challenges for AT&T, which faces fresh competition in a deregulated telecommunications industry and criticism from Wall Street for recently hiring a relative unknown as president and likely heir to the chief executive’s post.

The e-mail problems also are the latest glitch to bedevil Internet service providers, coming after American Online’s 19-hour blackout of online service in August.

The quantum leap in the use of online and Internet services has produced a rash of growing pains. With many more people relying on the services for everyday work and communication, those pains are more noticeable than ever.

AT&T said it was the biggest problem to hit its online service since it launched WorldNet last March.

``We had experienced other e-mail problems in the past that were rectified. We’ve never experienced a problem like this one,″ Allen said.

The company was keeping customers informed about the problem through news groups and customer announcement areas in the online service. Customers also have been phoning the service’s help line about the trouble.

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