Campus Internet outage caused by router mishap

By Austen Hufford, Daily News Editor
Published February 27, 2013

On Tuesday night, in the midst of midterms, Internet went down across campus. Service returned at 4:52 a.m. after about five hours.

During the outage, the Internet was not connected to the University server, making CTools and Wolverine Access inaccessible to outside users. The problem stemed from Merit Network, an Ann Arbor-based Internet service provider for Michigan's public universities.

“We’ve got all hands on deck; we're trying to figure it out,” Merit CEO Donald Welch said during the outage.

Welch was not immediately able to determine the source of the issue, but said Merit was experiencing "a lot" of problems. He said the issue started at around 11 p.m.

Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University and Washtenaw Community College also experienced technical issues.

Elwood Downing, a spokesman for Merit, said the company’s technicians determined the source of the issue was at one of Merit's core routers located in Chicago, where Merit engineers were able to determine the core router was not forwarding the packets to the greater Internet.

Once the company discovered the issue, Downing said engineers moved everything over manually to another path.

Rob Belinski, a representative for Information and Technology Services operations, confirmed Tuesday that students on University computers could access CTools, umich.edu and Wolverine Access because they are housed on the University’s intranet, which is powered by local servers. However, any non-University websites were inaccessible.

Although University e-mail could be accessed, it appeared that no mail could be sent or received.

Downing said the problem only affected a small percentage of people served by Merit Network, as the malfunction occurred after normal business hours. Merit engineers are reviewing the incident further to determine if it was a hardware or software malfunction at the core router.

LSA sophomore Jeffrey Butler said he had three midterms coming up this week and was “livid” when he lost access to his courses’ resources on the CTools website Tuesday night. He said he usually studies late at night and the Internet malfunction was “extremely inconvenient.”

“I got through it, but it unnerved me a lot,” Butler said.

LSA freshman Ryne Menhennick said being unable to access CTools was an issue for him the night before he had an exam. He said he solved the complication by going to the Union and using site computers to print materials.

“It made studying for midterms difficult ... I was pretty stressed out,” Menhennick said.

Daily News Editors Alicia Adamczyk and Taylor Wizner and Daily Staff Reporter Danielle Stoppelmann contributed reporting.