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Hill Crackberry Users in Withdrawal


Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., works his BlackBerry in the Senate Reception Room in December 2009.(Harry Hamburg/AP)

Capitol Hill is having technical difficulties.

A fixture of the halls of Congress was compromised on Wednesday during one of the worst communications outages in memory: BlackBerrys suffered service disruptions.


Service outages for BlackBerrys had hit the Americas after plaguing the Middle East, Europe, and Africa since Monday. The company had little explanation.

“BlackBerry subscribers in the Americas may be experiencing intermittent service delays this morning,” a spokesman for Research In Motion, the BlackBerry-maker, said in a statement. “We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible, and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience. We will provide a further update as soon as more information is available.”

The outages were no more acutely felt than on Capitol Hill, where the BlackBerry was the only device available for staffers until this year because of its bulletproof security standards.


Aides in both chambers complained that their service was down, throwing a kink in their day.

“Staffers who use Blackberrys may be experiencing the same difficulties that other BlackBerry users are having,” said Dan Weiser, a spokesman for the House chief administrative officer.

Twitter was abuzz with complaints of the outage. One reporter saw some irony: “News alert: Blackberry outage brings Congress to standstill. No one notices any difference,” tweeted Jeremy Jacobs of E&E News.

But some staffers saw the outages as perfunctory. Michael Shanks, spokesman for Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., opined that the BlackBerry had failed him in the past.


“Countless are the times that it’s randomly shut down, frozen up, and generally gone fickle on me. It’s amazing that in a country as technologically savvy and sound as the U.S., we still have these problems,” he said.

A grain of salt may be necessary. Shanks’s boss hails from Cupertino, Calif.--the hometown of Apple.

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