Obamacare Site Issues: Verizon Reportedly Gets 'Tech Surge' Call


Verizon reportedly is being called in as part of the "tech surge" outlined by President Obama to fix the widely criticized Obamacare website.

The Department of Human Services has called in Verizon's Enterprise Solutions division to help fix the site, USA Today reported, citing unnamed sources. The site has been plagued with problems since its Oct. 1 launch, and Obama spoke briefly Monday about working to repair the issues with a so-called tech surge, although he did not provide more details.

Verizon already has been paid close to $775,000 to provide "technical assistance [and] support" for the site, according to a General Accountability Office filing. Verizon declined to comment on the issue, saying it does not speak about specific work it does with its clients.

[Related: AppDynamics Offers Free APM Software To Remedy Glitchy ObamaCare System]

The Obabmacare website's problems originally were attributed to strictly a volume issue, with more than 20 million hits so far on the site, according to Obama's speech Monday. However, it was later acknowledged to be a deeper software and coding issue with the website's back end.

"Initially, it looks like it was bandwidth and infrastructure issues, which would make Verizon a perfect fit," said Skyler Ferran, COO of HillSouth, a Verizon partner. "As I understand it, the traffic to the site has dropped dramatically and they're still having a lot of issues. To me that speaks more to the fundamental [problems]. ... Because of that, I don't know how much help Verizon would be."

Ferran said that the government would be better off bringing someone on board that is experienced in database queries, which he said seems to be one of the bigger problems rather than traffic. He said perhaps the Department of Health and Human Services should look more toward companies such as Twitter and Facebook, both of which deal regularly with database queries and high-volume traffic.

"I think the best solution is to bring in some of these experts, frankly, which I assume government has, to identify the root cause," Ferran said. "I don't know if saying, 'Oh yeah, we're using Verizon,' is better than pulling together a good team."

The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to CRN's request for comment in time for this story. Verizon holds multiple contracts with the government, including being selected to compete for a $10 billion Department of the Interior cloud project.

Ferran said that pulling in a big-name company such as Verizon might be just a way to for the government to show it is taking steps to fix the solution. Ultimately, he said, Verizon may not be the right choice to fix the underlying issues -- which go deeper than an infrastructure problem around high traffic volume.

"I think the Verizon deal, yeah, it sounds great, but it's about investing time and fixing the issue and taking advantage of the resources out there," Ferran said.

PUBLISHED OCT. 22, 2013