Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

Virtual Disasters -- Watching the Hurricane on the Internet Traffic Report

2011-08-27 15:43:43
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I almost hate to admit watching the Weather Channel during Hurricane Irene. Being in Portland, Oregon, makes it seem more like watching SyFy Channel -- surreal and impersonal entertainment, except it's real. So, to keep it real for myself, I checked out The Internet Traffic Report.

The Internet Traffic Report is a spot check on the "big tubes" as Sentor Stevens refered to the Internet. Only, the Internet is really electricity and light. So, as the power fails, poles fall and underground, well, tubes fill with water, the Internet starts to go dark.

I like the idea of calling the Internet monitor a "Traffic Report." I think of it more like an Air Traffic report, because I got stuck in Kansas City once because Houston had a thunderstorm, but it's still a traffic report -- if something gets blocked up in one place, it can cause problems a long ways off.

So as the on-the-spot reporters are getting wetter and the skies are getting darker, I keep expecting to see the Internet start to black out. Granted, as I write this, North America has a "Yellow" score of 73, I'm kind of surprised that New Jersey is sporting a 93, and Massachusetts has an 87. It's places like Las Vegas and Vancouver BC taking down the North American scores, and I doubt that's Hurricane related.

Just because the big tubes aren't filled with water, that doesn't mean that the little wires to your house or the ethereal wireless connections through your cell provider aren't affected. I remember a scene in that (really bad) movie The Day After Tomorrow when New York City flooded. Power was out. Land lines didn't work, but for some reason everyone's cell phones worked fine.

Of course, they wouldn't. Hell, I can't get signal half the time on a sunny day in town. But if the power goes out, the cell towers don't work. If the phones are down because lines aren't working, even if the cell tower has power, it can't connect your call.

It's part of that "we're all interconnected" thing. Not the hippy-dippy spirituality, but technologically. You're not going to feel a disturbance in the Force, but the day that a storm on the East Coast of North America takes down a big percentage of the Internet, it will affect a web site for a coffee shop in Indiana, or maybe even India.

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