Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How the Internet has withstood the earthquake

Despite the magnitude of the natural disaster that struck Japan, Internet access in the archipelago was very little disturbance outside the areas directly hit by the earthquake and tsunami. Based on measurements of Google, connections to the search engine from Japan have remained relatively stable, and the traffic level is raised 24 hours after the earthquake.

In areas directly affected, the connections are completely cut off, not because the infrastructure has not resisted, but because the means to connect (computers, grid ...) have been destroyed. The submarine cables linking the islands to the Internet have been damaged but the extent of damage is still unknown, and the network has been specifically designed to continue to operate even during major disasters.

Internet is structurally built to bypass major disasters. The ancestor of the Internet, the military network ARPANET, was designed by the U.S. military, which wanted to develop, during the Cold War, a decentralized communication system capable of withstanding a nuclear attack. Internet is based on "nodes" of communication, that circulate the information.

When a route is blocked, the network transits the data another way. In case of nuclear attack on a communication node, the army and had a system to maintain contact with the rest of the network. SUBMARINE CABLES DAMAGED BUT NOT CUT However, the strength of the Internet is not infallible.

In 2006, a magnitude 7 earthquake off Taiwan was severely damaged several undersea cables and disrupted access to the network. "Generally, when a major disaster occurs somewhere, maintaining or not Internet access depends on several factors," explains the World. en Anya Chambers, the Internet Society (ISOC), the authority of the Network.

"We must verify whether the disaster has affected the lives of key infrastructure such as submarine cables, the connection points of the cables on land, or the hosts or ISPs. The diversity of network resources and maintaining local access to them is also a very important point. " During the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, the impact on network access were twofold: "In the case of Haiti, the country had remained connected because most of the points of data exchange were located outside the big cities most affected by the earthquake.

In contrast, many Haitian websites were inaccessible because their hosts had been affected by the disaster, "says Anya Chambers. The destruction of power grids had however complicated the access to the Internet still works, but to which he was unable to connect because of current. After the earthquake in Japan - whose epicenter was located near the crossing points of fiber optic cables submarines - many operators in the region reported that the cables were damaged, but none seem to have been cut entirely.

Emergency repairs are underway, but final repairs could take time, given the difficulty posed by such operations in open sea, which require the use of underwater robots.

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