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Games paused for Comcast subscribers

Many subscribers to the company's high-speed cable Internet service were unable to access popular online games last weekend, due to a software glitch, Comcast confirms.

Many subscribers to Comcast's high-speed cable Internet service were unable to access popular online games last weekend, due to a software glitch in some routers the company used.

Comcast broadband customers who also subscribe to online games such as "EverQuest" and "Ultima Online" reported in online forums and elsewhere that they were unable to log into the games as of Friday afternoon, with any attempt to connect greeted with a message saying the game server was unavailable.

A Comcast representative confirmed that the problem was with the cable company. A routine upgrade of the software some Comcast routers use inadvertently blocked access to certain server ports, the representative said, adding that the problem was fixed late Monday. ISPs commonly use port-blocking rules to restrict access to a server that may be generating hacking attacks or other objectionable activity.

The Comcast representative said the company had no estimate of how many customers were affected by the glitch, but online user forums for several online games had numerous Comcast-related complaints.

Angela Bolton, a college student in Kent, Wash., and a subscriber to Electronic Arts' "Ultima Online" game, said she had repeatedly tried to log into the game since Saturday without success.

"I get the message that my client is unable to attach to the server, the server must be down, and that I should try again in a few minutes," Bolton wrote in an e-mail exchange. "I have never seen this message before and never had these kinds of (problems) playing the game."

Stefanie Moore of Bellevue, Wash., said she has been unable to access "Ultima Online" since Friday and has found little assistance from Comcast.

"I was in and out of Comcast's technical support chat line for connectivity issues, and none of the tech support members would even listen to me," she said in an e-mail exchange. "They kept telling me to do a DNS flush and to shut off my cable modem and turn it back on. I let them know that there are hundreds of people out there having the same problem, and the tech support guy booted me out of the chat room."

The Comcast representative said the company worked with customers to isolate and solve the problem as quickly as possible.

The growing market for pay-to-play online gaming has been a financial boon for companies such as "EverQuest" distributor Sony and a significant motivator for many consumers to upgrade to high-speed broadband Internet access.