I’m fascinated by the ongoing soap opera about the mysteriously severed undersea telecomm cables. If you haven’t been following, here’s a good recap. Maybe we’ve been preoccupied with Super Tuesday, but I haven’t seen too much mainstream coverage. Or maybe it’s another reminder that the Interwebs isn’t as important as we think it is.
Nah, must be Super Tuesday.
I won’t rehash all the conspiracy theories. I do love the Wall Street Journal’s coverage, which included this sweet image of a shark with a frickin’ laser beam attached to its head, obviously a suspect in this nefarious plot to deprive the Middle East, India and 70 million other broadband users of iJustine.tv.
Oh wait, apparently there are millions of dollars being lost by businesses too. I remember a few years ago when a cable accident took India offline. At the time, I was working in product management with a project team in India. Needless to say, the project slipped a few days while my colleagues in India were without Interwebs. So, the business cost is very real.
Affected countries have implored casual users to stay offline to allow commerce-driven traffic to use the limited bandwidth. Can you imagine? How long would you last under those circumstances?
Anyway, what fascinates me is how low-tech the operations are and how susceptible the high-tech world is to low-tech accidents. The cable repairs are done by cableships that find the break (
not sure howusing an Optical Time Domain Reflectometer, ftw! Thanks Tyler), bring it up to the deck of the boat, then splice on a new section. That’s exactly how the plumbers fixed a section of pipe in my backyard, except for the land vs. sea bit.
And check out this sweet map of undersea cables, how fragile is this the Interwebs? Sure, traffic can be switched seamlessly in the case of an accident, but apparently, cable wear and tear is common. These cables seem pretty fragile too, only 69 mm (about 2 3/4″) in diameter. Maybe I’ve seen too many sci-fi movies, but I guess I expected something more hardy.
Plus, the locations of these cables are known. So, even though it seems unlikely that the recent cuts were purposeful, aren’t we just feeding ideas to the Dr. Evil’s of the World by suggesting how easy it would be to cripple a large portion of the World’s economy? Talk about the most unkindest cut.
Anyway, the whole thing is weirdly interesting, and in an ironic juxtaposition, soon banks will be accepting deposits electronically in the form of scanned checks. Sounds like another great advance in Interwebs that I don’t really need, but might use. But when you look at how tenuous the Interwebs is, maybe not so much goodness.
Have a theory on the cable cuts?