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Comcast DNS Outage Affects Thousands in Midwest

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 6, 2010 7:00PM

2010_12_6_comcast.jpg If you're a Comcast high-speed internet user and were trying to get online between 7:30 p.m. and midnight yesterday, chances were that you were receiving Domain Name System (DNS) errors preventing you from doing so. A DNS outage affected thousands of Comcast subscribers in the Chicago area, northwest Indiana, southwest Michigan and Minnesota. Comcast has since fixed the outage, but said that there are still some customers without internet service (and probably not reading this award-eligible reporting).

To help us explain a DNS outage, we brought in former Chicagoista Laura Oppenheimer, who now works as marketing manager for "DNS is like the phonebook for the Internet. It connects URLs (which humans speak) to IP addresses (which computers speak)," Oppenheimer told us. "What's extra frustrating about an ISP with a DNS outage, is that you technically still have a connection — you just can't really do anything with it."

Well, there is something you can do about it. You can sign up for an alternate DNS service, like Google Public DNS, OpenNIC, DNS Advantage or OpenDNS. Just like you can switch your e-mail provider, you can switch your DNS. Oppenheimer said that OpenDNS will give users a more reliable internet experience, due to the way the company caches its content, and also protect users from malware and phishing scams.Google Public DNS lists the various types of DNS attacks and how their DNS service helps to mitigate that.

Oppenheimer said that it's pretty simple to switch DNS services, but the steps can vary depending on the type of router you use; setting up a Linksys router isn't the same as setting up an Apple Airport. And finding an alternative DNS service sounds like a more substantial solution than Comcast's recommendation to turn the modem on and off to reset it. This is the 21st Century and we should be past the "hold the rabbit ears this way to get rid of the snow in the picture" solutions.