Time Warner Cable services restored after nationwide outage

Time Warner Cable said a problem that developed during a maintenance operation was responsible for knocking out Internet service to most or all of its 14.5 million customers early Wednesday morning.

The outages were felt in all Time Warner Cable markets, including Charlotte.

According to Time Warner Cable’s website, the problems started in the Charlotte area shortly after 5 a.m. More than 1,200 service problem calls were reported around 5:30 a.m., and the Observer heard from customers without Internet and some TV services.

The problems were spotty, however, with some Charlotte-area customers saying they did not notice a loss of service. The outage also appeared to affect Time Warner Cable’s customer service phone number, as customers nationwide reported not getting an answer when they called the company.

One reader who lives in the Barclay Downs neighborhood near SouthPark said he did not have Internet service at 5:30 a.m. and could not get an answer on the customer service line. He said service had been restored by 8 a.m.

Time Warner Cable issued a statement Wednesday morning saying the problems began about 4:30 a.m. Eastern time. “During our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services,” the statement said.

The company said cable television and telephone services were not affected. The problem was fixed by 6 a.m., Time Warner Cable said, but it took a while longer to bring customers back online. Some customers reported having service restored when they rebooted their modems.

The company’s website reported complaints from Charlotte, Los Angeles, New York City and Buffalo, among other areas.

Time Warner Cable, which is in the process of being bought by rival Comcast Corp. for $45 billion, has about 11.4 million high-speed data subscribers in 29 states. The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing the deal.

Opponents of the deal have urged the Federal Communications Commission to block it, saying Comcast already is too big and that both companies suffer from chronic complaints about lousy customer service.

“This is just another challenge that Time Warner and Comcast face in overcoming a customer environment that is fraught with frustration and misery,” Steve Beck, founder of the management consulting firm CG42, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“People are questioning whether this merger will be good for consumers,” Beck said.

The Associated Press reported there are major outages of at least one telecom provider every year, although typically they aren’t national, said Tim Farrar, an analyst at TMF Associates.

“AT&T had a major outage back in April, Comcast had one last October. Verizon Wireless had several national outages on its 4G network back in 2012,” he said. “Usually it is related to bugs in new technology, and occasionally to routine maintenance where someone did something wrong.”

Separately, on Tuesday, the FCC said Time Warner Cable would pay $1.1 million to resolve outage reporting violations. The FCC found that Time Warner Cable did not report disruptions in service to its networks to the FCC in a timely manner. In addition to the payment, the company is submitting a three-year plan to make sure it will comply with the reporting rules. The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times contributed to this story.