The Great Communications Blackout of 2009

Posted Friday, April 10th, 2009 at 09:26 AM

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iPhone has NO SERVICE
Photo by dbrulz123 via Flickr

Yesterday, something like 50,000 people in the south bay lost their cell service AND land line phone service. If they were DSL subscribers, there goes the internet too. Unfortunately, we fell in this category. Our house was without phones and internet until 5pm. I was at work all day in San Jose, and if Chesney or I had some kind of emergency, there was really no way to get a hold of each other (or the police!) unless we got in the car and drove.

And this wasn’t just residential – businesses, too were without phones and internet. I know that OfficeMax in Santa Cruz was effectively unable to open their store until later that evening because all communication with the store databases was down. OfficeMax in the whole region estimate they lost $14k in sales that day. Some other stores did not even open at all. Banks and ATMs were also offline.

Early that morning, we were half-joking that it was probably a new terrorist cyber-attack. Later when the news came out that it was, in fact, sabotage, we find out that we weren’t that far off!

Jack is Awesome
Yeah, Jack saves the President again.

Feeling a little vulnerable? To me, it all seems a little too easy. Sure, it was 10 feet underground, under a man-hole cover, and you had to have some expertise to cut those lines, but it still seems like for not too much effort, you can knock out communications to a huge area. It’s kind of like how all too easy it was for those terrorists to take over the White House in this season’s 24. Well maybe not that easy.

This begs the question: are we as a society today a little too wired? I love the computer/internet age and all improvements in the quality of life that we live – I owe my whole livelihood as a web developer to it – but times like these make me want to go out and buy a battery-powered radio, walkie-talkies, and stash money under my mattress.

Read about the whole incident on SFGate and Mercury.

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