Delicate infrastructure

I work for a company in California.

Right now we’re supposed to be having a lot of meetings using a mix of telephone and Internet for voice and video, screen sharing, all other sorts of technical goodies.

But it’s been odd. I haven’t seen anyone from the office online yet. No IM’s, no emails. Meeting is supposed to start but no one is around, nor is anyone calling me into the meeting. I pick up the telephone and start calling. Every line is busy. That’s odd. I call mobile phones, they all kick immediately into voice mail. That’s really odd. I tried a few people’s home phones (reach the spouse, ensure I have the right mobile number) and they were busy. Now things are just getting weird. Of course any attempts to connect via the Internet to the office (e.g. VPN) aren’t happening.

I called the company’s main office down in southern California. They confirm the other office seems to have no phone or Internet. This sometimes happens, so I think no big deal, but coupled with all the other inabilities to get through (e.g. mobile phones), I hit Google.

I find this.

That’s basically the area where the office is located. So best I can say is this is the problem. So who knows how long we’ll be high and dry.

Think about the implications of this:

  • An AT&T fiber line was cut. As a result, 50,000 land lines were down, mobile phones are down, Internet is down. This leaves a massive number of people without any means of communication to anything further than shouting distance.
  • Report says that people may not be able to contact police. They are saying if you have an emergency to go to the nearest police station. Think about that. If you ever counted on the police coming to help you, how can they know to come help you if you can’t tell them to come help you…. again, unless they’re within shouting distance.
    • If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you can probably figure out what I’m implying here.
  • Of course, emergencies aren’t just police. What about medical emergencies? What if your house catches fire?
  • How are hospitals coping?
  • If everything can be brought to a screeching halt by severing one line, what does that say about infrastructure? Lack of redundancy?
  • How much commerce is affected? Not just our company’s inability to do business, but think about simple credit card transactions. I doubt those can go through. No grocery shopping, no buying gasoline, no nothing. Heck, I’m sure ATM’s aren’t working. Got cash?

And there are many many other things that you can imply by the fact that one line was cut and all this goes down.

Technology is great, but how much do we depend upon it? And how fragile is it all?

Updated: Word I hear is that this is now being view as vandalism. That someone maliciously cut 5 fiber optic cables. It’s created all sorts of chaos, it demonstrates how reliant we are upon such technology, and it shows how fragile things can be.

Updated 2: Looks like the plot sickens. Interesting quote:

“We would never condone any kind of destruction like this,” [Communications Workers of America union] spokeswoman Libby Sayre said. “We didn’t do it this time. We would never do it.”

Emphasis mine. This time. Mmm.

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