The massive — if intermittent and selective – outage of service to customers of Paragould Light, Water and Cable’s fiberoptic system has been fixed. However, the fix, which telecommunications division chief Marcus Dowdy characterized as a “work-around,” awaits a permanent solution.
“What we did was to downgrade the software that was causing the problems,” said Dowdy on Friday. “We don’t anticipate any further problems.”
Engineers from Plano, Texas-headquartered Dasan Zhone Solutions (DZS) are continuing their efforts to diagnose the software that was responsible for the problem to find the cause, Dowdy said. DZS provided both the hardware and the software back in 2017 to start the conversion to Fiber to the Home project.
Dowdy said the system had been working fine for about four months as the result of the latest upgrade before the problem began at 2 a.m. on Wednesday. He added that the downgrade of the software should not be noticeable to Fiber to the Home (FTTH) customers. “You shouldn’t see any degradation in signal or in performance,” he said.
Utility chief operations officer Brett Bradford initially identified the problem as a software glitch on Thursday. “We have been working the problem all of Wednesday and today,” he had said at the time.
Numerous comments about problems appeared on both Facebook and Twitter in response to tweets from PLWC. “Some people were not affected but a lot of people noticed that one of their TVs were out while the other ones stayed on,” posted one Facebook commenter. “Saw a lot of that today.”
“Mine has been in and out all day!!” posted another. “Mine is working at my home over by Reynolds Park but I work at At&t [sic] and its [sic] not working there,” posted a third. “Strange! Sure hope it gets fixed soon so all the kiddos can continue their virtual learning.”
Dowdy explained that the issue is “very technical” and has to do with the amount of data traffic the software can process. “Some of the data traffic is ‘behind the scenes,’” he said Thursday, “but you have to have it to be able to get to web sites and such.”
The problem is not, he pointed out, geographically based. “That’s why one residence will have [Internet] access and the house next door won’t,” he said, “or why a residence will have access and then lose it, or why some but not all TVs in a residence will have access.”
Dowdy added the number of customers affected is not known specifically but is expected to be substantial. “It’s really hit or miss,” he said.
And Dowdy explained that customer complaints about the problem had overwhelmed the 24 telephone lines PLWC has dedicated for customer service. “So if you call and can’t get through,” he had said, “that’s why.”
In a Facebook post at 5 p.m. on Thursday, the utility explained that there were only so many telephone lines through which customers could register complaints. “When these lines are exhausted,” the post read, “you will hear a message saying ‘Your call cannot be completed.’ We are answering all calls in the order they are received. We understand that this situation is frustrating and we will update you as repairs proceed.”
Dowdy added the reason the system began to malfunction remains unclear, and is the subject of the DZS troubleshooting. “We don’t know why it all of a sudden decided to cause problems at 2 a.m. on Wednesday,” he said, “whether we reached some magic number of customers or users, or what.”
The types of data traffic the DZS software appears unable to process fully, Dowdy said, are Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) data and Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) data.
According to study-ccna.com, an ARP is a network protocol used to find out the hardware (MAC) address of a device from an IP address. It is used when a device wants to communicate with some other device on a local network.
According to www. efficientip.com, a DHCP is a network management protocol used to automate the process of configuring devices on Internet Protocol (IP) networks. “A DHCP is where you get IP addresses,” Dowdy said.
He said the system was restored to service at 4:43 p.m. on Thursday. “Some ONTs [optical network terminals] may have taken longer to come back up,” he said.