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Comcast outage refund? Not so fast

One of the Chicago area’s biggest ever high-speed Internet outages left more than 1 million Comcast customers without Web access Sunday night.

But Comcast says it has no plans to refund customers en masse. Those who want refunds will have to apply individually, spokeswoman Angelynne Amores said.

The outage — which stretched across the Midwest from Minnesota to Michigan — lasted from around 7:30 p.m. Sunday until 12:30 a.m. Monday and came exactly a week after a similar problem affected millions of Comcast customers on the East Coast.

In both cases, the outages were caused by failures of Comcast’s Domain Name System servers — the virtual “phone books” that translate Web addresses into a numeric format. The similarities between the two outages prompted speculation that Comcast was targeted by hackers, according to Morningstar analyst Michael Hodel, who estimated Comcast has between 1.1 and 1.2 million Internet users in the Chicago area.

With so many home and business devices now reliant on Web connections, an Internet outage is akin to an electrical power blackout, according to the Consumer Federation’s director of research, Mark Cooper. Thousands of customers called busy helplines Sunday night.

But Comcast’s near monopoly of the high-speed Internet market in Chicago and an absence of federal oversight means fed-up customers have few options, Cooper said.



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