Comcast outages add to Basalt businesses’ woes |

Comcast outages add to Basalt businesses’ woes

Regular outages this year have affected Internet, phone services

A bartender chats with a customer during lunch at the Tipsy Trout in Basalt on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. The restaurant is one of the Basalt businesses affected by the Comcast outages. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Frustrated downtown Basalt business operators say regular outages of their Comcast Internet and telephone service is making a tough climate even tougher this year.

Scott Bayens, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty, estimated the firm’s Basalt office has experienced 12 outages since the first of the year. It knocks out Internet and phone service at his office. Some days there is intermittent service and others days there are prolonged outages. Bayens said the office’s service was out from 11 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

He said he is unwilling to bank on losing his ability to research information on his laptop while working with clients.

“It essentially means I’ve got to pick up and leave,” he said.

He has the option of going to Sotheby’s office in Willits, assuming there is an available desk. He sympathized with other businesses — restaurants and retailers — that can’t relocate.

Claire Clarke, co-owner of the Tipsy Trout restaurant, said the outages eliminate their ability to process credit cards.

“We look like idiots,” Clarke said. “They don’t see it as Comcast. They see it as our fault.”

She said one customer gave the restaurant a one-star review on social media because it took her 20 minutes to pay her bill. During one outage, she had four tables tied up by customers waiting to close out — and several parties waiting to be seated.

In addition to losing the ability to process credit cards, the outages knock out the restaurant’s music.

“We pay a lot of money for Comcast,” she said. “It’s not cheap.”

Comcast is aware of the problems and is working to address them, said Leslie Oliver, director of media and external communication for Comcast’s Mountain West Region. The company estimates the problems have affected 100 businesses and an unknown number of residential accounts.

There have been a couple of problems in Basalt, one being more demand than supply. The system, she said, is “nearing capacity.”

In an email providing more detail, Oliver said there is a node or central connection point serving the downtown area that is at capacity, “which means businesses have been experiencing intermittent service and/or slow connections.”

Comcast will add a node and move some people to a new connection point.

“This means less congestion per node, faster speed, consistent connectivity,” she wrote.

In an interview, Oliver said a timeline for the fix wasn’t available to her. There likely will be continued disruptions to service and slow connections until the additional node is added, Oliver said.

She stressed that the Comcast business team and account representatives for residential customers will contact people experiencing problems and keep them informed of the progress.

“We recognize and are sorry for the inconvenience this is for our customers, and we appreciate their patience as we enhance the network to meet increased demand and deliver faster, more consistent connections for them,” Comcast said in a statement.

Bayens said he has been particularly frustrated by the lack of information up to this week. Even Sotheby’s IT personnel have been given the run around when they tried to talk to Comcast officials about the problem, he said.

“The lack of communication is completely inexcusable,” Bayens said. He wrote an email Wednesday expressing his frustration to town government and Basalt Chamber of Commerce officials.

Kris Matera, director of the chamber, is collecting stories from members about how the outages have affected their businesses. The information will be shared with Comcast.

Town manager Ryan Mahoney said town hall has received complaints about Comcast from one residential customer on Sopris Drive and one business on Midland Avenue. The problem appears centered on the business core and immediate surrounding neighborhoods.

He said he reached out to Comcast on Wednesday and heard about the capacity issue. His contact estimated the problem would be solved within the next month. No more definitive timeline was available on Wednesday, he said.

The town staff will keep pressing for updates, he said, and he urged individuals to also advocate on their own behalf.

Oliver stressed that Comcast realizes the outages cause disruptions to businesses and home life.

When asked if other growing neighborhoods in the midvalley are ripe for similar problems, Oliver said Comcast tries to stay on top of capacity issues.

“That’s certainly our goal — to avoid disruptions and stay ahead of the growth,” she said.

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