UPDATE (5th February 19:30 BST): This piece has been updated with comments and information from several Easthampton, MA businesses affected by the phone outage. Reports indicate at least one company affected by the outage is now seeing service restoration.
Customers of GAW High Speed Internet, an Internet and phone services provider operated by the parent company of controversial bitcoin startup GAW Miners, are reporting service issues.
The development is notable as GAW’s phone customers aren’t the only ones experiencing disruptions to their service. The news comes amid reports of SEC investigations into GAW Miners, senior staff exits and the potential resignation of GAW Miners CEO Josh Garza, suggesting the service interruptions may also be indicative of broader operational issues at the parent company.
PayBase customers have been reporting issues on Hash Talk, GAW’s community forum, in recent weeks. For example, the company locked users out of PayBase after the launch of a planned gift card service and an internal market crash that followed on 18th January, an incident which sent the price of paycoin plunging. GAW Miners also recently announced the shutdown of its ZenCloud cloud mining platform.
Both GAW High Speed Internet and GAW Miners are subsidiaries of Geniuses At Work Corp, and the Internet service and phone provider is owned by GAW Miners investor and Cantor Fitzgerald vice chairman Stuart Fraser.
Garza, who serves as chief executive for GAW Miners and cryptocurrency platform PayBase, also acts as CEO of both GAW High Speed Internet, according to the Better Business Bureau, as well as GAW Corp.
Small businesses impacted
Platterpus Records of Easthampton, Massachusetts, has been experiencing phone problems since at least 22nd January, taking to both Twitter and Facebook to report issues it says are shared by other area customers.
Indications that customers of GAW were experiencing phone problems surfaced on 22nd January, when Platterpus took to Twitter to alert its followers about the phone issues.
We (along with a few other businesses on Cottage Street) are having some problems with our phone service. For… http://t.co/XYMqb2xmBX
— Platterpus Records (@PlatterpusToo) January 22, 2015
The company posted a similar update to its Facebook page. Eight days later, Platterpus posted an update, noting that GAW had not returned its calls. Notably, the small business tagged CEO Garza directly.
Even after this outreach, however, the small business experienced continued delays.
On 4th February, the record store announced that it was still without phone service and suggested that GAW was unable to perform repair services.
The store stated that five local businesses were affected by the outage, and also openly questioned whether GAW was still operating.
Local companies speak out
CoinDesk spoke with several business owners in Easthampton who have been affected by the GAW phone outage, including Platterpus Records proprietor Dave Witthaus.
Witthaus said that he had been reaching out GAW customer service representatives daily since the disruptions began, but received no indication that services would be restored, explaining:
“No phones and absolutely no explanation. To add insult to injury while this is going on, of course, they send out their bills via email. So obviously they’ve got our email address.”
Witthaus suggested that GAW was originally seen as a viable alternative to larger ISPs that service the Western Massachusetts region, but that businesses in the area that received phone service encountered routine issues with connectivity and customer service. He remarked that at least one other business in the area that worked with GAW had shifted to another ISP as a result of the outage.
“They could have done well in this area but the customer service has just been awful,” he said. “And now, two weeks without phone is just unacceptable.”
Marlies Stoddard of Nash Gallery reported similar experiences, and said that the outage led to confusion among gallery visitors and customers during a time when she was on vacation. Jared Quinn, who runs Harry King Rug & Home out of the same building, told CoinDesk that the disruption has had a material impact on his business.
A representative for GAW reportedly told Quinn that the outage was a result of a server issue, and according to Quinn, a promised service restoration for 4th February didn’t occur. Quinn was later told that a fire at the call center he spoke with led to further delays.
“No one has called me back,” he said. “I’m losing business.”
GAW has faced a rising tide of public criticism following a string of delays and platform problems, including perhaps most notably, its decision to abandon a plan to stabilize the price of its bitcoin competitor paycoin at $20.
The move was followed by the last-minute postponement of a proposed buyback that would have seen customers be reimbursed for purchases at this value. At press time, the value of 1 paycoin is $1.03.
CEO Josh Garza also recently canceled a much-anticipated speaking appearance at The North American Bitcoin Conference (TNABC) Miami, citing issues with the launch of the company’s planned gift card service PayFlash that weekend.
The cancelation sparked confusion and derision from both within the GAW Miners community and the digital currency ecosystem at large as the forum was meant to address longstanding questions about the company’s business practices, as well as its future.
CoinDesk has reached out to GAW but did not receive an immediate response.
CoinDesk will continue to provide updates as the story develops.
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