Cheyenne Walsh

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Many Winthrop University students were unable to log into social media or work on web-based assignments for several hours on April 15, as the campus was affected by an internet outage that impacted thousands of Comporium customers.

Comporium; the telecommunications provider for York, Lancaster and Chester counties; took to Twitter and Facebook Monday morning to report “widespread internet outages due to a damaged fiber-optic cable.”

The City of Rock Hill later apologized to Comporium, via a statement issued to The Herald, for causing the outage when a city crew, installing sanitary sewer service on Oakland Avenue, hit a duct bank containing fiber and several other copper lines around 9:30 a.m.

Winthrop technology services office manager Brian Davis was initially at a loss when the outage occurred.

“We did check our systems right away and they were working, so we were confused why we weren’t connecting until they made that announcement and we were able to ascertain that that had happened,” he said.

“We got the word out that the line was cut, but…people weren’t connected so they wouldn’t get the email. It was pretty much, you had to be (informed) direct or (by) phone call.”

Comporium and city crews lined Oakland Avenue, near downtown Rock Hill, throughout the day to fix the damaged fiber-optic cable, which affected “internet, TV and telephone customers in many areas in York and Lancaster counties,” according to Comporium’s Twitter page.

Daniel Branham, a senior computer science major, experienced the internet outage firsthand during a presentation of a software system, which he spent his final year developing for a client as part of his capstone class.

“We realized the internet wasn’t working, then the other team realized that was the reason their whole app crashed and didn’t work; and so throughout our entire presentation we just kind of had to suck it up and do what we can, because our app relied on the internet to connect and look proper,” Branham said.

He said it was a “horrible” experience for those looking at the software and for the students who had to present in those conditions.

“I knew that Wi-Fi was a very important factor in our daily lives, but honestly, until I went to the gas station (Monday), I did not realize how much it affects everything,” said Kathryn Wooldridge, a senior mass communication student.

“A lot of the pumps were down, because they use Wi-Fi and so you had to go inside to buy your gas and a lot of the pumps, there were only three that were working, so it was just like once the Wi-Fi was down, everyone just kind of crumbled.”

Dining areas across the Winthrop campus were unable to accept credit or debit cards due to the outage, forcing many students to go without a meal.

Some professors even went so far as to cancel class, because the outage affected their lesson plans.

Comporium continued repairs throughout the day Monday and early Tuesday morning.

“Our technicians have restored service to most of our customers and are still working to restore everyone. The repairs have required splicing over 600 fiber-optic cables,” the company tweeted at 6:32 a.m. Tuesday.

About an hour later, Comporium issued a final tweet, which stated crews had finished repairing the damaged cables.

* Video of student reactions was produced by Trey Brownlee.