BlackBerry Blackout Strands Users

The afternoon service failure yesterday was the second in less than a year for Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry mobile device and operator of its e-mail server. Phone services were not affected, a Sprint spokesman said.
The afternoon service failure yesterday was the second in less than a year for Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry mobile device and operator of its e-mail server. Phone services were not affected, a Sprint spokesman said. (By Manu Fernandez -- Associated Press)
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By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

As the doors closed on the Metrorail train he was riding home from work yesterday, ABC News senior political reporter Rick Klein reached for his BlackBerry to encounter his worst nightmare: no new e-mails.

Earlier, Klein had been getting hundreds of e-mails an hour for his political blog "The Note" in preparation for today's Potomac Primary. But like millions of BlackBerry users across the country, he was caught up in an afternoon blackout that lasted for more than three hours.

For Klein, being cut off from e-mail, even during his half-hour commute to his home on Capitol Hill, seemed intolerable.

"It was like being underwater without an oxygen tank. It felt like every minute was an hour," Klein said.

The failure appeared to affect users on all U.S. wireless carriers from about 3:30 p.m. to 6:50 p.m., an AT&T spokesman said. It was not clear that it affected all BlackBerry subscribers and appeared to only involve e-mail, representatives from AT&T and Sprint Nextel said. Phone service on the devices was not affected, a Sprint spokesman said.

Research in Motion, which makes the ubiquitous handheld device and operates the BlackBerry e-mail servers, did not respond to phone messages and e-mails seeking comment.

It was the second major failure for RIM in less than a year. Last April, the company's e-mail service was interrupted for several hours overnight. The company later said its system crashed during a software upgrade to the servers that run the BlackBerry network. The cause of yesterday's blackout was not known.

The BlackBerry has had a loyal following, particularly among business users, since its introduction nine years ago. RIM has 12 million subscribers for its BlackBerry service worldwide and about 8 million in North America.

The interruption yesterday may have inconvenienced some customers, but faithful users such as Klein say the glitch has not changed their view of the service.

"It couldn't have come at a worse time for me, but I think it was just an occasional problem," he said. "I'm too wedded to the technology at this point to change."


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