Students Tough Out Worldwide Blackberry Outage

Harvard Blackberry users found themselves intermittently unable to check their email, communicate through Blackberry Messenger, or use a variety of data services Wednesday, as a network outage for the devices spread to North America early in the day.

Network disruptions began a few days ago in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India before reaching the Americas.

For many, the first sign of trouble was the inability to send or receive emails.

“It was weird because I didn’t get any emails—usually I have 5 to 10 new ones every morning,” said Blackberry user Chika-Dike O. Nwokike ’15.

Many students regard their Blackberrys as essential tools for managing their lives, using the built-in calendar and messaging applications on a daily basis.


A disruption in data service could mean an inability to communicate with friends over BBM, or, perhaps more ominously, the possibility of missing an important email.

“It’s hard to keep in touch with my friends and organize stuff without BBM,” said Griffin T. Schumacher ’15, who realized that something was wrong after one of his messages refused to send.

But he also questioned the severity of the outage, given that text messaging and phone service continued to function normally.

“It’s not like text messaging is the worst thing in the world,” Schumacher said.

Many other students also said that they did not feel that the outage constituted a crisis in their lives.

Some users were not even aware that Research in Motion (RIM)—the Canadian telecommunications company which manufactures and provides data services for Blackberry devices—was having difficulties keeping its network afloat.

“I honestly didn’t even know that it had happened,” said Chelsea A. Mullen ’15.

Analysts have been scrutinizing RIM since the network went down, and some have criticized the company for remaining relatively silent throughout the outage.

Some students shared this sentiment, saying they wished there would be more of an explanation for the interruption of services.

“I wish they could just keep us informed,” said Ava C. Carter ’13.

Nonetheless, Carter added that she enjoyed the respite from constant communication.

“It’s kind of nice to not get emails all day long,” she said.

Although Blackberry devices are widely used by business professionals, their dominance has been challenged in recent years with the ascendancy of other smartphones, such as the iPhone and the Droid.

Among Harvard students, this recent blackout may have hastened the Blackberry’s decline in appeal.

“I’m already thinking of switching to the iPhone,” said Schumacher.


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