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BBN reimburses for lost service

BBN Planet's president sends a letter to more than 300 customers whose Internet access was cut off by a power outage last week, offering them two free days of service.

BBN Planet's president has sent a letter to more than 300 customers whose Internet access was cut off by a power outage last week and offered them two free days of service, CNET learned today.

That could amount to hundreds of dollars per customer, although the total would vary greatly depending on the service, company executives said.

BBN President Paul Gudonis also said the Internet service provider is putting a new system in place--dubbed the "Emergency Broadcast System"--to contact customers more quickly if this type of incident ever happens again.

"While BBN Planet's staff did its best to contact customers, we were not able to call as often or as early as we, or you, would like," he said in the letter obtained by CNET. "After this incident, we have a ways to go to regain your confidence, but will make every effort to do so."

The two-page letter was sent out the middle of this week. It followed last Friday's outage at Stanford that halted or delayed Internet access for tens of thousands of users in areas throughout California.

In addition to BBN, those hit included the University of California at Berkeley, Hewlett-Packard, Genentech, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner.

BBN's PoP (point of presence) is at Stanford, where the power outage occured. The lack of power made it impossible for BBN to provide Internet access.

Stanford blamed rats for getting into a switching unit and causing an explosion.

Gudonis said the company also is "taking additional steps to ensure that power outages do not impact our customers." At Stanford, for example, backup generators will remain on the site.

"We are continuing to install more capacity, more redundancy, and new systems to meet your evolving needs," Gudonis said. He said he was personally at the site when the incident occurred to ensure that the network got up and running.

Other ISPs and online services said today that they likely would offer the same type of credit to customers if a similar event struck them. For example, America Online recently reimbursed customers for a free day of service after an equipment failure shut down its system for 19 hours.