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Comcast looks into claims of lost e-mail

Cable giant, whose free residential e-mail service suffered an outage much of Saturday, says it is tackling an "e-mail counter issue" and addressing claims.

An "e-mail counter issue" is at the root of at least some confusion over the status of e-mail sent during a Saturday outage to free residential e-mail, Comcast says.

According to spokesman Charlie Douglas, subscribers who regularly access Comcast e-mail through external POP clients may notice a discrepancy between the number of new e-mails displayed on the company's site and in their actual in-boxes. This may be leading people to believe that they have lost e-mail when, in fact, they have not.

Douglas said the company is working on a case-by-case basis with subscribers who are experiencing issues like this one, posted by CNET reader "jeninmd":

When I was finally able to log on to the Comcast Web site about 5 p.m. Saturday, April 4, it told me I had 31 new messages (which sounded about right). But when I clicked on the link to see them, it said I had none...I went back to their Web site today, Sunday, April 5, and it said I had 3 new messages. But the same thing happened; they disappeared when I clicked on my in-box!

Douglas reiterated on Monday that the company believes that intermittent disruptions in service Saturday, which lasted about 10 hours, did not result in lost e-mails but rather in delayed arrivals of messages. And he said the next version of Comcast's SmartZone Web mail interface, expected to debut this summer, will correct the message-counting discrepancies.

Via e-mail, however, the same reader who complained of 31 phantom messages--Jennifer Brasher--said she has "proof" of lost messages. "I called my sister, and she had sent me three, which I never got," she said. "I also know for sure that Telecharge e-mailed me a ticket I had purchased."

Brasher said a Comcast customer service representative with whom she spoke Monday afternoon "reluctantly admitted that e-mails were lost when I backed him into a corner."

The representative "did briefly mention an issue with external clients, but I explained to him that I wasn't running my POP client (Windows mail on Vista) because it couldn't access their server, so I took it down," Brasher wrote. "I am a former career software developer, so I wasn't buying his lame excuses."

Other users are voicing their concern as well. Responding to a story about the outage on AppScout, reader "Pamela" on Monday morning wrote, "Well, here it is two days later, and no e-mail. I am waiting for confirmation of my e-filed taxes. Um, this is not good at all!!!"

Responds Comcast's Douglas: "We're working with the engineers to investigate any claims. We take this very seriously."