Internet provider suddenly goes offline

Internet provider suddenly goes offline

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CLINTON, Iowa - Clinton County administrative offices are among hundreds of businesses and homes who were left without online access, Web sites and e-mail after an area Internet provider shut down this week without notice.

For the past three days, customers of CIS Internet Services flooded the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce office with calls, trying to get information about why they have no Internet service, chamber president Julie Allesee said Wednesday.

All complaints are being referred to the Iowa Attorney General's Office and Better Business Bureau.

CIS owner Robert Kramer could not be reached for comment and did not return messages. Calls to the CIS office in Clinton are answered by a recording that directs the caller to a series of extensions for various departments, but the message on each extension says it is "unavailable."

Kramer made news in recent years when he won more than $12 billion in judgments from lawsuits filed against companies that send spam e-mails. He said in October he had only collected about $1 million.

The company provides Internet service to the Clinton area, including Camanche, Low Moor, DeWitt, Bellevue, Maquoketa and Fort Madison in Iowa and Fulton and Morrison, Ill. The cis.net Web site also was not functional Wednesday. In 2004, when Kramer won his first billion-dollar judgment, he had 5,000 customers.

Clinton Police Chief Brian Guy said one of his officers made contact with a CIS employee who said the company was going out of business and that a public announcement would be made within a few days.

The Clinton County Board of Supervisors met in an emergency session Wednesday and decided to declare the county's contract with CIS Internet Services void and move immediately to find a new provider, County Attorney Mike Wolf said.

The county's Web site has been down since early in the week, and employees at the Clinton County Administration Building have been unable to receive e-mails, said Lynn Tibbetts, administrative assistant for the board. She said county officials were unable to reach anyone from the company to find out what was wrong.

Wolf said the county has received good service from CIS in the past, but that Internet service and e-mail access are "essential for the function of government now."

"We were down for two days and without a response, and we had to take action," Wolf said.

Ellen Miller, who works in the county's information technology department, said the department made strides in getting e-mail service and the Web site restored, and both could be operational as soon as today.

Wolf said the county will likely have a new Web site address ending with the ".gov" suffix. The address could be announced today.

Among businesses that lost their Internet were radio stations KMAQ in Maquoketa and KROS in Clinton.

Dave Vickers, general manager at KROS, said the station lost its Internet access, Web site and e-mail service Monday afternoon, but didn't think it was anything other than a routine service interruption until Tuesday. He said radio station staff can't send or receive e-mail or use the Internet to prepare their broadcasts.

"It's quite inconvenient," he said.

Vickers said the station is working to find a new provider and hopes to keep its domain name, which would allow the station to keep its e-mail addresses and Web site address.

The Chamber has been recommending that customers who have their CIS payments set up to be withdrawn from their checking account automatically should call their bank and stop the payments, and to seek refunds on prepaid service.

In addition to CIS, cable and phone companies also provide Internet service in the Clinton area.

CIS has been in business since 1996.]

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Related to this story

Robert Kramer of Clinton, Iowa, is perhaps best known publicly for winning more than $12 billion in judgments against spammers in two actions …

Customers of CIS Internet Services who wish to voice their concerns about the company may call the Iowa Attorney General's Office at (515) 281…

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