Pacific Bell blames Internet slowdowns on message hogs : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Posted at 10:28 p.m. PST Friday, March 31, 2000

Pacific Bell blames Internet slowdowns on message hogs E-mail bogs down high-speed DSL BY JON FORTT Mercury News Staff Writer

Thousands of Pacific Bell Internet subscribers encountered a new enemy in the online world this week:

The e-mail hog.

For the third month in a row, Pac Bell's e-mail servers slowed to a crawl, sometimes taking 12 hours or longer to send and receive messages. The worst problems started Monday, though some customers said they have experienced intermittent delays since early February.

Pac Bell blames the popularity of its high-speed digital subscriber line Internet service, which allows users to quickly surf the Web and download video and audio clips. When multiple DSL subscribers e-mail huge multimedia files to one another, Pac Bell's e-mail system can't handle the strain.

Thursday night, Pac Bell said e-mail should be fixed before 8 p.m., but slowdowns persisted Friday. The company said Friday it doesn't know when the problems will be fixed.

``What we're seeing is video streaming, audio files, people sending pictures of their kids,'' said Pac Bell spokesman John Britton. ``The bottom line is that we realize that we need to have more bandwidth. Every company is managing the same issues.''

Indeed, Pac Bell is not the only high-speed Internet provider to face e-mail problems. An equipment failure froze e-mail for Midwestern customers of Time Warner's Road Runner service for two days in late February, and a network glitch at Pac Bell rival Excite@Home cut e-mail service to high-speed cable-modem customers in Washington and Oregon three months ago. In the Bay Area, Excite@Home has experienced intermittent e-mail problems.

Pac Bell's slowdown comes while the company is airing commercials touting DSL's reliability compared to cable modems. The commercials argue that in a cable modem community, ``Web hogs'' who stay online and download huge files can slow service for everyone else. In the ads, old women and young children battle it out, accusing one another of abusing their Internet access.

Pac Bell's e-mail problem is different: Customers can still surf the Web using Pac Bell DSL. But for customers who depend on e-mail, the effect is similar.

``This has kind of turned my day-to-day work life on its ear,'' said Charles Faltz, director of professional affairs at the California Psychological Association. Faltz is coordinating health policy testimony for a hearing in Sacramento on Tuesday and has been forced to rely on his fax machine and phone.

``People who are in e-mail time normally expect a response from me in a short time. They have no idea that I am not getting my e-mail for hours and hours,'' Faltz said. ``I get a couple hundred e-mails a day normally.''

Customers who called Pac Bell Friday heard a recording that said that engineers from Sun Microsystems, which provides software for the servers, were working with Pac Bell engineers to solve the problem. At times, the message warned that there could be a 50-minute wait to speak with someone.

``Pac Bell is attempting to grow extremely rapidly, signing up people as fast as they can, and that undoubtedly compounds the stress on the system,'' said John Navas, an Internet security consultant in Dublin who uses Pac Bell DSL. He uses his own server for e-mail, however.

Navas said he occasionally tests the speed of Pac Bell's e-mail. A message he sent to himself Thursday night took about 12 hours to arrive. ``There's really no excuse for it,'' he said.

Pac Bell's parent company, SBC Communications of San Antonio, plans to merge its consumer- and small-business-oriented Internet service provider business with Prodigy, one of the nation's largest Internet providers.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 02, 2000

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