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Major satellite outage affecting ISPs, ATMs, flights

Telesat's Anik F2, one of the most powerful telecom satellites in orbit, has turned off and away from Earth.

The Anik F2 is giving humanity the cold shoulder. Boeing

My office today is a bar overlooking the historic Taos plaza in New Mexico and my Internet access comes courtesy of tethered Verizon 3G (don't tell!) service. That's all because my normal ISP has been out of commission since early this morning thanks to a major satellite malfunction that's also impacting all sorts of services, from ATMs to flights in Canada's northern territories.

Telesat's Anik F2 satellite experienced a "technical anomaly" beginning at about 3:30 a.m. PT today, according to a release from the Ottawa-based company. The anomaly is reportedly that the satellite entered some sort of emergency mode, causing it to shut down and turn away from Earth.

That's bad news for subscribers of the WildBlue satellite ISP in the United States, which uses Anik F2 to provide broadband services to about a third of its customers. Wildblue is one of two major American satellite providers, a subsidiary of California-based ViaSat, claiming a total of more than 420,000 subscribing households mostly in parts of rural America where dial-up is the only alternative.

The latest status reports from WildBlue via user forums are that service may not be restored until Friday morning.

The timing is somewhat ironic, as ViaSat also announced today that it will be launching a new satellite, the ViaSat-1, from a platform in Kazakhstan in less than two weeks. The new satellite will provide new speed and capacity for WildBlue, according to ViaSat.

In addition to the broadband outage, the stubborn satellite has also grounded flights in northern Canada that rely on satellite-based location services and even affected some ATMs in North America. The Canadian press has reported widespread problems across a number of mediums relying on the satellite--from television to land line phone service.

The Anik F2 was built by Boeing and launched in 2004. It has an expected lifespan of 15 years and is among the most powerful telecommunications satellites currently orbiting the Earth. In other words, we ought to figure out what we did to cause it to give us the cold shoulder quickly...please. This bar stool is getting seriously uncomfortable.