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RE: Katrina could inundate New Orleans
On Mon, 29 Aug 2005, Dave Stewart wrote:
Y'know... I do have to wonder whether Internet access is nearly as important as power and communications (traditional comms, such as the PTSN).A few years ago, we still had a model in which the Internet was layered on top of the traditional telecommunications network, and anything really important happened over voice calls, or at least over non-IP circuits of various kinds. Now, the two are becoming sufficiently intertwined that it's sometimes hard to know which you're using, and the days of being able to say the Internet isn't important in an emergency are probably coming to an end.
Granted, in a major disaster, the important thing is to keep people safe. When there's massive danger to human life, preserving infrastructure of any sort is not in and of itself a primary goal. However, we do want people to be able to get weather data in order to keep themselves safe, we do want people to be able to call for help, and we want rescuers to be able to coordinate their efforts. That means we need working telecommunications networks, whether it's IP to get to weather websites, TDM or VOIP trunks within the telco, or VOIP services to offices or homes. Yes, this all requires power. Hopefully, equipment that's necessary for emergency communications is on generators or batteries.
I don't know much (if anything) about infrastructure in New Orleans. I suspect it's one of those places where IP packets go to Dallas, Miami, or Ashburn to get across town, and I suspect most of the VOIP providers that claim to serve it don't have local infrastructure, so keeping long distance circuits there working would be pretty important. Then there's local infrastructure. We can hope the buildings with routers and telco gear in them are designed for this, although some of them probably aren't, and some that are probably won't work as planned. Outside, cables that are up in the air may get blown over, while cables that are underground may flood. And, even for stuff that doesn't get flooded or blown over, there's likely to be equipment getting fried and needing to be replaced due to power surges.
And then, as others have pointed out, there's the question of whether other places are dependent on infrastructure in New Orleans. It's not a place I've ever seen prominently figure on any ISP's nation-wide network maps. But, there are plenty of those I haven't seen, and I don't know about the underlying infrastructure in the area. Do circuits from Houston to Florida pass through New Orleans? Hopefully, anybody relying too heavily on circuits that pass through the area has adequate capacity on backup paths that go elsewhere.