Users were unable to access the Fido Web site for several hours Monday because Microcell Communications may have failed to renew the domain name, a registrar said.


Andersen, a representative of the Canadian Association of Internet Registrars in Toronto, said he had been in touch with the wireless carrier following failed attempts to access the firm’s site.

“”They actually seem to have figured out what the problem is. We do notice that they’ve finally got a hold of their registrar and have renewed it,”” he said.

A spokesperson for Montreal-based Microcell first became aware of the problem when contacted by and was unable to confirm its cause at press time.

If Microcell neglected to pay the $20 error, Andersen said, it would be no earlier than 6:00 p.m. before is online again. “”I happen to know that with a dot-ca domain, there’s only four times a day that you can get a domain back on the air.””

He said the problem probably originated in the firm’s failure to update technical contact information on file with the Canadian Association of Internet Registrars.

It’s fairly common for small companies to neglect to renew domain-name addresses but rarer for the big players, Andersen explained. Hotmail, however, went off the air for several hours years ago for the same reason, he said.

Andersen added that typically larger companies notice quickly because customers unable to gain access to the site complain. According to Andersen, Microcell’s customer service lines were being bombarded with inquiries at press time.

“”It’s pretty sad because this is probably, you know, a $30 expense for them every year. And, I assure you, it probably costs them a lot more than $30 in loss.””

Roberta Fox, president and senior partner of Fox Group Consulting in Markham, Ont., said Microcell’s problems may affect internal applications like consumers’ billing inquiries and product browsing, but not messaging because it’s on a separate server.

Yet, Andersen countered that a few colleagues who e-mailed their Fido cell phones received a ‘550 Host Unknown’ message, which basically translates to “”‘I don’t know how to e-mail this domain name.'””

Underscoring the danger of not renewing a domain name — though it may not relate to the Fido case — is an observation by Fox Group Consulting that some unscrupulous individuals monitor domain-name registrations and “”scoop”” a name for the opportunity to demand money from the original owner.

Though it’s tough to speculate about the kind of damage control Microcell may attempt, Fido’s messaging and pay-as-you-go plans seem to target youth, who are “”pretty tolerant”” customers, Fox noted.


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