Spirit One internet customers lament 'catastrophic' loss of service
Spirit One customers said they chose a small, Portland internet service provider because they wanted to support a local business in an industry that typically favors behemoths.
Nearly a week after their internet service abruptly disappeared, and with no word from Spirit One, several are now saying they regret their decision. They describe struggling to run businesses and maintain contacts with friends and family after losing access to their Spirit One email service, internet access, and web hosting.
Tress Prefontaine said a quarter of her income from her Portland travel advisory firm has vanished since Spirit One went offline Friday evening. She relies on email to stay in contact with clients and suppliers.
"This is a really big hit in my pocket, a really big hit," she said Thursday. "I'm in a panic."
Reached by phone Thursday morning, Spirit One chief executive John Ogden said the company is in the final stages of migrating to new servers and expects to have service back online in "four to 48 hours." He said the company had planned to notify customers before the migration began last week, but that an engineer at the company failed to send an "all-points bulletin" to customers.
Once service went down, Ogden said, Spirit One was unable to reach customers to tell them what happened. The company's main phone number initially described a "global outage," but now has no message at all. Ogden said its phone lines and its own website went down with the rest of its service but will come back once the service is restored.
Ogden also serves as chief executive of another company, PowerPlus Oil & Gas, whose website - and that of an affiliate - indicates it acquired Spirit One in 2012. Spirit One operated for at least a decade prior to that and has absorbed other internet providers over the years, including Aracnet. Ogden said Friday that the business is 19 years old.
"I have two small businesses that rely on email. This is catastrophic that they just fall off the map with no communication," said Don Domes, who said he'd had an Aracnet email address since the early 1990s.
This isn't the first time Ogden has had issues providing internet service. A KATU news report from 2007 described a similarly abrupt loss of service with another internet provider that Ogden ran, called CyberConnectics.
On Friday, Ogden blamed an unnamed prior owner for CyberConnectic's troubles.
"That was theft. We bought a company and a guy lied about his customer base," Ogden said. "I really don't want to discuss that at all."
Ogden has declined to say how many subscribers Spirit One has, other than to characterize the number as "substantial." The Oregonian/OregonLive has received a constant stream of inquiries about the company's status since first reporting on its troubles Tuesday.
The Oregon Department of Justice said Thursday it has received a half-dozen complaints about Spirit One this week. She said the department investigated CyberConnectics in 2007 but closed the investigation for lack of evidence.
In the early days of the internet, many people used an email address provided by an internet service provider like America Online. That made them reliant on paying a monthly fee to receive their email.
More recently, large numbers of people have moved to free internet services offered by Google, Microsoft, and many others. That makes them less dependent on monthly payments to a company like Spirit One.
Some Spirit One customers, though, said they thought they could trust a small business more than a large one and so chose to stick with their Spirit One service.
"I have been with Spirit One since 2004. I stayed, as others left (including my daughter) because I wanted to support a local business," Portland resident Elsa Porter wrote in an email from her new Gmail account. She said the outage that began last Friday severed her connection to friends and family, and to vital business contacts.