Thursday :: Apr 9, 2009

Our dependency on our technical infrastructure

by Mary

Sometimes it is very hard to remember what the world was like just a few years ago before we had the WWW, cell phones, automated tellers or debit cards. Today, a major outage of the fiber optic cables that serve as our core technical infrastructure in the south San Jose - Santa Cruz County area was sabotaged affecting thousands of people who found themselves thrown back into that pre-internet world.

I first heard about while taking my early morning calls from home and planning to drive into work in South San Jose. But we had to close our site today because the T3 lines and phone systems that connect us to the rest of the world and our globally connected company were out.

It wasn't so long ago that when your work site went down, the day would be a "free" day for those who were sent home. But today, those outside the affected area could simply find another location to hook up and were back working without a pause. (I have to say I miss those days when a rare unplanned vacation day came around. It's much harder to get unhooked today.)

For those who live and work in Santa Cruz, the day was quite abnormal as so much of our daily life is done interacting with computers working together.

NETCOM, the dispatch center for local fire and police agencies, is able to receive 911 calls placed from hard lines, but cannot receive calls placed from cell phones, senior dispatcher Stephanie Zube said.

Since 2:30 a.m., Zube said the center has received too many calls to count from people asking about the nature of the outage. Zube said those calls have tied up the lines at the center for hours.

Emergency crews have not been delayed in responding to emergencies as a result of the outage, Zube said. But she said there is a possibility that people reporting crimes or other serious incidents may not able to reach authorities through the phone.

In some communities, the police started driving around neighborhoods to make sure people who needed help could flag them down.

Banking was severely affected and even those who pay for their cup of coffee with a debit card found themselves having to dig up change to pay in cash.

For those who want to follow what's going on, AT&T is using Twitter to give updates to their status.

Today is just a reminder that our world is more dependent on our technology than we often realize. It's not something we can just take for granted.

Mary :: 6:00 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!