On Wednesday morning, every single Time Warner Cable Internet subscriber found themselves without access to the World Wide Web. Internet downtime isn't entirely uncommon, of course, but it is when we're talking this kind of scale. The worst of it in this particular event is that the downtime wasn't caused by hardware dying; rather, a maintainence worker accidentally submitted a bunk configuration, which propogated across the entire network.
Given the fact that this incident was completely avoidable and that it affected such an enormous number of people, TWC has found itself in hot water over this. This is especially the case given that the Comcast merger the company is hoping for is already shrouded with doubt (as it should be). With the right tools, TWC should have been able to catch and diagnose this problem sooner - three hours downtime is rather harsh, especially for those who needed it during that time.
Further problems stem from this one. TWC didn't disclose the issue, as it doesn't have to. If downtime is planned, Internet providers are legally required to let their customers know, but when it comes to accidental outages, they can keep mum. This is something that should change, because disclosing what happened not only forces the ISP to fess up to its mistake, but also help others in the market not make the same errors.
A worrying thing about downtime like this is that most people have almost no choice about what provider to go with. According to the FCC, 28% of US customers have no choice of ISP, while another 37% can choose between two. To me, those are sad statistics, ones that certainly don't work in the favor of the consumer.
TWC's downtime comes hot on the heels of another crash just a couple of weeks ago, with a Border Gateway Protocol router that became overloaded. Let's hope that these episodes are not the beginning of a trend.