• 84°

Internet outage in North Chilton County causes frustration, loss of revenue

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Access to internet has become a necessity for many to complete daily tasks, including local businesses.

On July 15 and 16, a CenturyLink internet outage in Jemison and Thorsby caused challenges to local businesses.

“On July 16, some customers in Jemison, Alabama, experienced an outage caused by another company’s network issues,” Linda M. Johnson, corporate communications for CenturyLink’s parent company Lumen, said. “Our techs worked hard to fix it as quickly as possible. All services are now restored. We know how essential these services are and appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding.”

Johnson said she was unsure who the other network was, but offered to research it.  She had not responded with an answer by press time.

Residents are saying that outages, whether of wireless routers or the entire internet system, are a frequent occurrence, happening about once a month.

Jemison Police Chief Shane Fulmer released a statement on the department’s page on July 16 discussing the issue. In addition to mentioning the issues it creates for local businesses, Fulmer mentioned how in impacts Jemison City Hall.

“Phones at City Hall do not work, and as much as we depend on the internet to conduct business at City Hall, that causes major problems,” Fulmer said. “As much as the internet is relied on in citizens’ homes these days, that’s a major concern. Mayor Reed has contacted other city and county officials in and surrounding our city/county along with our local legislators, both state and federal, to maybe come together and come up with a plan that will address these issues. Something has to change and get better.”

Thorsby business owner Tiffany Hammock said the outages negatively affect her restaurant, Farm House Café. She said CenturyLink is the only internet option for Thorsby.

“Every 30 days, we will lose internet, and it is always right in the middle of the day,” Hammock said.

Sometimes these outages are weather related, but not always.

“It will just arbitrarily go down,” Hammock said.

Losing internet also means losing phone service for the restaurant.

To avoid being unable to take payments when there are issues with the wireless router, Hammock has hardwired the credit card machine to internet access. However, if the internet goes out entirely, it still means credit cards cannot be accepted. Hammock now has a device that will connect to her phone to allow them to take credit cards, but there has been challenges with this as well.

“When CenturyLink goes down, it affects our Verizon service,” Hammock said.

She said she found out that Verizon uses part of CenturyLink’s hardware network.

“Thankfully, we are such a small business here that we know our customers on a personal level,” Hammock said.

When the payment system was down, Hammock accepted checks and allowed some customers to sign their ticket and come back to pay later. Once phone lines were up again, Hammock could accept credit card payment information over the phone.

“This whole outage probably cost about $2,000,” Hammock said.

Initially, the cost is higher, but she trusts that outstanding tickets will be paid.

The outage also impacted Jemison banks’ ability to serve customers.

There is a local sales office for CenturyLink in Jemison, and Hammock said they are good to work with. However, they cannot fix the reoccurring issues. The corporate customer service has been unsatisfactory for Hammock. She also expressed frustration on behalf of the customers who are paying for inconsistent service.

Because of the reoccurring issues, Hammock is encouraging community residents to express interest in Central Access, the internet arm of Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, bringing its fiberoptic network into town.

While Thorsby may not be in the immediate plans, Hammock hopes that if enough people fill out interest form and pay the $25 fee that the company will add the town to its future development.

The interest form is available here: caecaccess.com.

Hammock said Central Access representatives had come to the restaurant, and she filled out the paperwork with them.

Many Chilton County residents have gained access to high speed internet through the first phase of Central Access building its fiberoptic network.