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BlackBerry outage enters third day; Washington, D.C. reacts

(CBS) - The BlackBerry outage that began on Monday started out as an inconvenience. Three days and five continents later, it's looking more like a disaster.

BlackBerry users worldwide are unable to access email, BlackBerry Messenger or data services.

Research In Motion U.K.'s managing director Stephen Bates told CNN the outages were caused by an "extremely critical issue."

"We're putting all of our focus with all of our engineers and all of our network specialists on trying to understand the nature of why this backup system didn't work as it should have," Bates said.

Chief technology officer David Yach told the press Wednesday afternoon the outage was not caused by hackers or a security breach. Rather, it was a failure of a core switch at one of RIM's network operations centers in Europe. A redundant backup system also failed.

BlackBerry users will get their messages eventually. A backlog of information will be pushed out to users once data traffic from the outage clears up.

Washington, D.C. has been hit hard by the outage. The smartphone is popular among government officials because of its security.

The outage is even getting its own nickname. Politico is reporting that Capitol Hill staff is calling it "Black-pocalypse."

A Senate staff member told Politico, "Getting approvals, going to meetings is all a lot more challenging when you're not mobile. Today is one of those days when every task takes an extra 15 to 20 minutes because of the lack of a BlackBerry."

According to Reuters, RIM notified customers Wednesday of outages in "the Americas" similar to that of Europe, Africa and Asia.

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It was just Tuesday that RIM released this statement on the service outage:

"The messaging and browsing delays being experienced by BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure. Although the system is designed to failover to a backup switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed."

CNET reported Tuesday that more than 10 million customers have been affected in Europe, the Middle East, parts of South America and Africa. That number has no doubt increased today. RIM has not announced when the service will return.

RIM's customers are obviously upset and have threatened to switch to different smartphones, which couldn't be better timing for Apple's release of iPhone 4S.

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