Comcast Outage – population problem solving and the limits of Twitter customer service

Twitter Trends map, from

People living on the east coast of the United States encountered a massive outage of Comcast’s Internet service last evening. Those who tried to call the customer service telephone line found it busy or an “unable to connect to an agent.” So for the first time that I’ve noticed, the population of the Bos-Wa megaregion (54 million people) problem solved over twitter. It was fascinating to watch, for many reasons.

First, Comcast is known for its work monitoring twitter via its Comcastcares ( @comcastcares ) handle, and multiple service reps. If you went there, you found out that ComcastWill ( @comcastwill ) was on duty last night, and you could watch as he learned that the outage was an outage, and maybe a little overwhelm, if you did a search on his handle.

Then, the population began to problem solve on its own, and within minutes, the “answertweet” was published, which for me came from @WeLoveDC (of course!):

[blackbirdpie id=”9061686929530880″]

Notably, a check on @ComcastWill ‘s feed shows him to be frozen in time:

[blackbirdpie id=”9081836252696576″]

Overall, I was impressed at the speed with which people were able to solve a community problem using social media, even outpacing a company that’s made an investment in using these tools to problem solve. If there was no @ComcastWill , we would have no acknowledgement that there was a problem from Comcast. At the same time, it seems that @ComcastWill could not keep up – I think there might have been an opportunity to tweet frequently and rapidly in this case, to use the quickness of the medium to show how hard people are working to fix things.

I think this provides good knowledge of the value of the tool in improving service (I think it was very valuable), and maybe some improvements to truly leverage what this medium is good at. My internet connection was fixed rapidly through the help of fellow twitter users, I am looking forward to co-solving other environmental problems with them, too.


Fabulous description of the story and observation on the Twitter angle.

I got my version from @Stales, who linked to Google’s instructions on it, including the extremely important instruction to carefully write down your current settings, because if Google’s failed, you’d be in serious trouble.

Otoh, the Google instructions didn’t include Open DNS, which is even better, considering that some people feel Google already has enough info about what we do online. 🙂 But Goog’s version is way memorable.

Ted Eytan, MD