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IHT’s Faulty Analysis of the Internet Meltdown

Wednesday’s International Herald Tribune has an important, but seriously flawed, analysis of last week’s Internet interruption in Asia.

The Trib article is important because it serves as a reminder of just how dependent on Internet availability and integrity we have all become in this age of email, websites, and e-commerce. The analysis is off base, however, when it suggests that closed private networks might be a viable alternative to the global Internet.

Last week’s earthquake off the coast of Taiwan reminded us all that a natural disaster can indeed slow down the Internet and seriously inconvenience millions of users. But it also demonstrated just how well the Internet is designed to absorb even a very serious breakdown in physical connectivity.

The Internet is certainly not immune to physical breakdown. But, because it is designed as a vast global network of networks, the Internet is far less susceptible to failure than any single private network could ever be.

New initiatives like Internet2 and GENI will further improve the availability and integrity of the Internet, but in the end, the best defense against natural disasters like last week’s earthquake will always be the system’s fundamental redundancy.  That’s how the system was designed, and that’s why it kept working.

When last week’s earthquake cut the cables a closed private network would have just shut down. But the global Internet took a licking and kept right on ticking.