Business & Economy

UPDATED: Internet blacks out in Vermont, taking state websites offline

state website

The message that greeted visitors to state websites Wednesday morning.

Editor's note: State websites were back online shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday. Internet service was restored to private users throughout the afternoon.

[T]he majority of state websites went down Wednesday morning, including online portals for the Department of Motor Vehicles, Vermont State Police, Vermont Health Connect and the Vermont Secretary of State's Office.

The state blamed its internet vendor, FirstLight.

Maura Mahoney, vice president of marketing and product management at FirstLight, said the outage was first noticed at about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday. FirstLight has located a break in the firm’s fiber optic cable between Essex and Waterbury, she said.

Mahoney said a splicing team would arrive at the site within the hour, and that FirstLight was attempting to reroute internet traffic to restore service to some users in the meantime.

She believed the outage only impacted Vermont, but was not sure how many customers were affected, or what caused the break.

John Quinn, secretary of Vermont's Agency of Digital Services, said at about 11 a.m. the state still didn’t know cause of the outage, or when the problem will be fixed.

"We've been pushing them for details on what the exact problem is,” he said.

Firstlight, a regional internet service provider based in Albany, New York, provides a "backbone" for local internet service providers in the Northeast United States to access major carriers, he said.

The state is investigating the extent to which the outage is impacting Vermonters and internet services in other states, he said.

Although state employees are at their desks without internet service, the state's phone system is still up and running, Quinn said, so Vermonters can still access critical services, including the Health Connect and DMV, by calling state offices.

Sean Sheehan, deputy director of health access eligibility at Vermont Health Connect, said that the customer support center was open, but could not process applications.

“As timing goes, Aug. 8 is not too bad of a time for this to happen,” Sheehan said. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s not open enrollment or the end of the month,” when people are paying their bills.

Kit Norton contributed reporting.

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Xander Landen

About Xander

Xander Landen is VTDigger's political reporter. He previously worked at the Keene Sentinel covering crime, courts and local government. Xander got his start in public radio, writing and producing stories for NPR affiliates including WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. While at WNYC, he contributed to an award-winning investigation of how police departments shield misconduct records from the public. He is a graduate of Tufts University and his work has also appeared in PBS NewsHour and The Christian Science Monitor.

Email: [email protected]

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