Jessica Jaksich, a junior from Emory University studying abroad in Paris this semester, spent the weekend visiting a friend in Barcelona. When the 21-year-old arrived back in the “City of Light” on Monday, she sent her friend a message via BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)—the instant message application exclusive to BlackBerry smartphones—to let her know she was safe and sound.
Little did she know, her friend, like many other BlackBerry users in Europe at the time, was experiencing an outage of email, messaging and Internet services.
“I received a panicked message from her hours later,” Jaksich said.
Blackberry outages reached the United States and Canada on Wednesday while users in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa endured their third day of unreliable, interrupted services.
Research In Motion (RIM), the Canada-based company that produces the BlackBerry smartphones, said in a conference call for reporters on Wednesday that the problem was caused by a link failure in its European infrastructure. The issue spread due to the enormous backlog of emails and messages that built up.
“It makes me pretty uncomfortable being that I am abroad and rely heavily on BBM to stay in contact with my family and friends,” Jaksich said. “SMS texts and phone calls are extremely expensive, and when I’m out of the house all day, I don’t have access to a computer or the Internet.”
BlackBerry users around the world were outraged by the outages, and college students were no exception. Students with BlackBerry’s have come to rely on their phones not only for social purposes, but to check class assignments, email accounts and to communicate with teachers and employers.
“For me personally, I have become very dependent on my BlackBerry as a way of receiving email,” Jaksich said. “I have five different email accounts all streaming into it, and have fallen out of the habit of checking any email on the computer. The majority of my communication with my university (in Paris and at Emory), my employers and other important contacts takes place through email.”
Emory University sophomore Hannah Kopelman, who has used BlackBerry’s for four years, didn’t think anything was wrong until she received 10 emails and 14 BBMs all at once. One of these emails was from a professor regarding an assignment.
“My professor sent me an email about my class work and I used my phone to respond at 7:15 p.m.,” Kopelman said. “I assumed the email had been sent until around 9 p.m. when I received a message status saying ‘all attempts to resend failed.’”
Kopelman also had to reschedule a meeting on Wednesday because she did not receive the basic information regarding the time and place.
RIM is working to end the worldwide outage, telling their customers that the email backlog may be cleared up by Thursday. Meanwhile, their dissatisfied customers struggle to find convenient ways to stay connected.
“I’ve gotten used to having an ongoing BBM conversation with my mom and several of my closest friends, and not having that access right now feels strange,” Jaksich said. “I never thought a day would come that I’d be grateful that my parents are on Facebook.”
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