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Verizon Net service users lose e-mail access
By Hiawatha Bray, Globe Staff, 2/23/2001
bout 50,000 users of Verizon's Internet service lost e-mail access yesterday, in what a Verizon spokesman called an ''administrative error.'' Though the company declined to provide details, the problem may have been caused by Verizon's failure to renew its ownership of a Net domain name.
Verizon Communications Inc. was formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE. The company provides Net service to about a million people, through a variety of domain names created before the merger. One of these names is bellatlantic.net, which is still used by 50,000 Verizon customers.
Yesterday, some of these customers complained they weren't receiving e-mail messages. Verizon had reported it was upgrading its e-mail computers, and that some problems were to be expected. But when some users ran a simple test program called ''ping,'' the result indicated the mail server wasn't merely shut down but had disappeared entirely from the Net. The domain name system that locates Internet computers could find no record that bellatlantic.net even existed.
This is what would happen if Verizon had failed to pay the $35 annual fee to renew its ownership of the name with Verisign Inc., the company that registered bell
atlantic.net. Network Solutions did not return telephone calls from the Globe. But a search of its public listing of Net domain names indicates bellatlantic.net expired June 29, 2000.
At any time after that date, Verisign would be entitled to remove the name from its database. Once that happened, even if the bellatlantic.net server was working perfectly, other computers on the Net wouldn't be able to find it.
Verizon spokesman Larry Plumb refused to confirm or deny his firm had neglected to pay its renewal fee. But he said the bell
atlantic.net breakdown was ''an administrative error on our part.'' Plumb added the service would be restored by late yesterday, as updated domain name information was distributed throughout the Net over several hours.
If Verizon forgot to renew its domain name, it wouldn't be the first big company to make such an error. In late 1999, Microsoft Corp. nearly lost its passport.com domain after forgetting to pay the renewal fee. A sharp-eyed Internet user paid the bill, and a grateful Microsoft sent him a $500 check.http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/054/business/Verizon_Net_service_users_lose_e_mail_access+.shtml
-- Carl Jenkins (email@example.com), February 23, 2001