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What I learned from an evening spent in the digital dark

Peter Smith | Sept. 24, 2015
Monday afternoon I was working in my home office when my Internet went down. Sadly that's not all that uncommon, but I needed to attend an online meeting. Since my office phone service is through Vonage, no Internet meant no phone either. Of course I have a cellphone as backup so I grabbed that cell service.

There was no Internet when I was a kid. No cell phones. No 911 system. If you wanted to look something up you headed to the library. But sometime between then and now I have become completely dependent on technology and I'm feeling a bit uneasy about that. When I want to know something, I want to know it now and having to wait is really frustrating. At the least, it might be time to buy a radio so I can get some news when the 'net is down.

But the more important issue that this event highlighted is how fragile our infrastructure really is. Assuming the local news station has it right, accidentally cutting one cable sent a significant portion of the Raleigh, NC area into the digital dark. I thought the whole idea of the Internet was that it was decentralized so that there was no single point of failure, but apparently that isn't always the case. If a single accident could cause this much damage, imagine how much chaos a malicious group could do if they cut a dozen cables at the same time.

Granted I'm talking about phone and Internet service and not power and water, but in terms of communications at least, I now feel like we're living a lot closer to total chaos than I ever imagined.


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