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ICE high-speed Internet users to be reimbursed for outages

October 18, 2011

Approximately 10,000 users of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute’s (ICE) high-speed Internet service will have their next bill prorated for recent Internet outages the state-owned telecommunications company says were the result of attacks by hackers.

“Our clients should be first and we should be with them. Although we are conducting a parallel investigation for judicial purposes, we cannot keep waiting for the results to let our clients know that the company is absolutely aware of what happened and will always act according to the principles of the institution,” said Jaime Palmero, a client manager at ICE, in a statement.

According to ICE, two attacks by hackers, one on Sept. 30 and the other on Oct. 8, affected the modems of approximately 10,000 subscribers across Costa Rica, preventing them from accessing the Internet for as much as a week or more. ICE maintained a 24-hour hotline through the weekend for users to report affected services and have ICE representatives walk them through the process of remotely reconfiguring their modems.  The Internet service provider said that in some cases, technicians had to manually reconfigure customer’s modems and reconnect service.

Some users in Escazú, a suburb southwest of San Jose that was affected by the outage, reported that they were still without services, though others said they had been reconnected.

In south San José, retiree John Bannach said on Tuesday that he had been without service for “eight or nine days.”

“This is unacceptable,” said Bannach who has investments in the United States that he manages online. “I’m completely out of touch.”

Bannach said that he and his landlord have been contacting ICE since last week to try and resolve the problem. They have been told that the institute is working to fix the issue. In the past, he said, he has experienced outages lasting three or four hours, but nothing like this.

The identities of the hackers remain unknown, as does the motive behind the attacks. ICE officials said the attacks originated from “various places in the world.”

On Tuesday night, ICE officials responded to requests from The Tico Times for information about the continuing outages.

Francisco Calvo, a customer service manager at ICE, explained via email that some 3,000 high-speed Internet subscribers were still without services, but that those users could expect to be reconnected within a 72-hour window. Calvo added that discounts to subscriber accounts would be applied on a case-by-case basis according to the amount of time each user account was affected.

Calvo said the institute has presented a complaint to the Judicial Investigation Police about the attacks, and that while the investigation is underway no further information is available.

Regarding protection against future cyber-attacks Calvo said: “ICE is implementing measures to minimize the probability that new attacks like these happen again,” but he did not elaborate on what those measures are.

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