U.S. Agency Goes Almost Three Months Without Email

Apr 10, 2012 12:05pm

Remember when getting a virus meant you might need to take a sick day? When sending someone a note meant folding a piece of paper, addressing and stamping an envelope?

For the staff of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, a small sector of the U.S. Department of Commerce, that time was just this month. For about 75 days, branches of the bureau across the country communicated without email after a virus attacked the email system in January. The Washington Post was the first to report that the department’s employees lost the ability to message one another without cell phones or other private means.

Now the website’s contact page lists only phone numbers and addresses, no email, aside from two personal email addresses.

The office is devoted to encouraging economic innovation and competitiveness, according to the grant application for a recent EDA competition. But did being cut off from email – one of the most expansive technological innovations in a generation – make that goal impossible?

Not according to EDA Public Affairs Director Cleve Mesidor.

“Throughout this process, EDA has communicated with its grantees regularly via phone and fax and have been able to maintain an open line of communication with stakeholders and partners,” Mesidor wrote in a statement. Her explanation for why the lapse in email access lasted so long was that the process of analyzing the virus and figuring out where it came from “takes time.”

She emailed ABC News her statement on Monday, proof that as she said, the crisis is over. All staff had email and Internet access returned to them in early April.

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