Cox Communications customers in sections of southwest Roanoke and Roanoke County felt the impact of a sporadic yet apparently widespread internet outage on Tuesday afternoon and into the evening.
Residential and commercial customers lost connectivity and one local health care provider had to power up a backup system.
Cox said the outage occurred after damage to some of the company’s fiber lines. But the company hasn’t responded to questions about what caused the line damage, where it occurred, or how many customers were affected.
Cox public affairs director Margaret-Hunter Wade said Tuesday the company could not offer further details, but said internet service was restored by midnight.
“We recognize the frustration it caused,” Wade said. “We know how important a reliable internet connection is.”
Parts of Raleigh Court and Wasena neighborhoods lost service in the city, along with Cave Spring and Electric Road-area county Cox customers.
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LewisGale Medical Center and Carilion Clinic representatives said the outage did not impact their operations. There were some disruptions to Carilion’s public Wi-Fi networks and some patient TVs, but the hospital has backup servers to protect connectivity.
The outage did affect Grandin-area businesses. Community Inn posted on Facebook that they were operating with cash only, while FarmBurguesa temporarily closed due to the outage.
Farmburguesa co-owner Jim Delgado said the restaurant was serving customers at two tables when the internet connection died at about 2 p.m. He said he noticed first that the televisions weren’t working.
“Sometimes when you don’t press any buttons or don’t change the channel it goes to sleep,” Delgado said Thursday. “I thought that’s what happened. I was just trying to turn it back on. And it wasn’t working.”
Then Delgado noticed the music had stopped playing and the phones had stopped working. With the internet out, the restaurant couldn’t process credit card payments.
“I had to let one table go without paying because they didn’t have any cash,” Delgado said. “I just told them that it was on me this time and that I didn’t have any internet. They came back yesterday and actually wanted to pay, so that was kind of cool. At the other table, the guy happened to have cash.”
Delgado said he called Cox about the outage, and the internet provider said service would return at about 6 p.m. With no way to take online or phone orders, and with fewer customers trickling in from the streets as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, he closed the restaurant.
“The dine-ins, they’re still happening, but I would say like 70% of our sales are take-outs,” Delgado said. “With no DoorDash, no GrubHub, no UberEats, and on our website the online ordering is not working, my only option would be putting a sign out there that says cash only.”
At 5:30 p.m., Delgado prepared the restaurant to reopen and called Cox again. But the provider said that the estimated time of the return of service had shifted to about 10 p.m. With that, the restaurant closed for the day.
Delgado said he called Cox a third time later in the evening and was told that service would return instead at about 3 p.m. But he found that service returned at about 10 p.m. to his home and to FarmBurguesa.
“I came back to the restaurant and checked and we already had internet. Maybe not everybody was having internet, and people were going to have the internet back on at three in the morning,” Delgado said. “I think the outage went all the way from here in Grandin all the way to Tanglewood, if I’m not mistaken.”
The restaurant was able to open with all of its services available on Wednesday.
“Everything was completely fine,” Delgado said. “We didn’t have any issues on Wednesday. And we haven’t had any issues since then.”
But a chart on Cox’s website displays reported outages in Roanoke from the last 24 hours. Between 3 p.m. Wednesday and 3 p.m. Thursday, approximately 100 outages or issues were reported.
About 70% of those problems were related to the internet.
A second page on Cox’s website reported at about 3 p.m. Thursday that 66 outages had been reported in Roanoke in the last 15 days.
Attempts to contact Cox on Thursday for more information on the outage were unsuccessful.
Staff writer Alicia Petska contributed reporting to this report.