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How Telcos and ISPs Are Preparing For a Pandemic 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the virus-protection-for-real-life dept.
alphadogg writes "Network operators and IT professionals already worried about how hurricanes and financial meltdowns will impact their work lives can add another potential catastrophe to their list of concerns: a global pandemic. During a panel sponsored by the FCC in Washington, D.C. this week, representatives from telecom carriers and ISPs discussed what steps they've been taking to prepare for the mass outbreak of a disease such as influenza, and also described the needs and challenges they would have to meet to keep communications up and running during a major global crisis. The most important tool at ISPs' disposal during a serious pandemic, panelists agreed, was that of network and bandwidth management controls."
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How Telcos and ISPs Are Preparing For a Pandemic

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  • Wait (Score:4, Informative)

    by PunkOfLinux (870955) <mewshi@mewshi.com> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:20PM (#25085955) Homepage

    How, exactly, does a global pandemic affect a network? Why would they need network management tools in case of such an event?

    • Re:Wait (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Feanturi (99866) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:24PM (#25086005)
      I think they just want to make sure they can keep overselling their bandwidth while being able to restrict it from all the evil pirates under the guise of controls for "just in case" there's some big calamity.
      • Re:Wait (Score:4, Insightful)

        by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @05:59PM (#25087997) Homepage

        Actually a network requires constant maintenance and repairs (and adjustments when some script kiddie starts dossing). Not to mention power supply (which means diesel distribution) and staffing of the NOC's. A good network will keep working once the last guy dies for about 48 hours or so, even though some parts will remain operational for much, much longer.

        If it didn't everybody and their dog would have a global network.

        • I suspect the phone-lined-based ISPs will be the last to fall.   As long as your phone still works, you should be able to still connect to AOL or Netscape, even after the cable, FiOs, or DSL routers have stopped working.

      • by huge (52607)

        I think they just want to make sure they can keep overselling their bandwidth

        Do you really think that it is possible to run a profitable ISP without overselling?

        • Yes.

          But if you do not oversubscribe, you'll have a smaller customer base, and then you'd either have to charge $100 a month to cover the increased expenses (per user). Or set realistic speeds of 100 kbit/s for a $15 a month rate; 500 kbit/s for $30 a month rate, because your company will have slower backbone connections.

    • Re:Wait (Score:4, Funny)

      by shadow42 (996367) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:26PM (#25086017)
      Obviously because the fight against online piracy comes before major health concerns. Who cares about a fatal illness when the guy next door is downloading Iron Man?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by infonography (566403)

        If there is a Pandemic I am going to be holed up in my place downloading Iron Man.

        Networking in a Pandemic is damn well important.

    • Re:Wait (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:26PM (#25086019)

      I think a pandemic might be the wrong event, but disaster preparedness probably is not.

      If you'll recall September 11th and a few days after, there were major issues with traffic getting to certain service providers. CNN.com basically melted down--I recall ESPN's website actually carrying news headlines to try and take load off the overloaded news site.

      Fast forward 7 years. We consume a lot more bandwidth these days with the rise of streaming video, VOIP, etc. And the network backbone hasn't grown as fast, so there's less network capacity.

      Now, let's say Bird Flu jumps to humans, and 500 cases are identified in New York city, with possible cases in Chicago, London, Atlanta, and Paris. Think about the demand for information. And think of the need for authorities to convey information to the public in as close to real time as possible (quarrentines, vaccination sites, curfews, etc.). Would the network infrastructure we have in place allow effective communication in a situation where it will save lives?

      It's worth asking the question, IMO.

      • Re:Wait (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @02:20PM (#25086385)

        CNN.com (and many other sites) melted down because their servers and own network could not handle the load. The average website is not designed to be ultra-efficient (e.g. as light as possible on network/server capacity), which means that whenever huge numbers of people flog to the site in question, it is essentially DDoS'ed by it's own design. CNN solved it by turning to a dressed down simple site without the fluff. So did many other sites. The other issue (for european users) was that most traffic was routed through a NY-location which was no longer up after the attacks.

        Second, I guess it depends on where you live, but network backbones can pretty much keep up with the growth, if properly invested in. AFAIC, the whole discussion in US (and some other countries) about broadband and internet infrastructure is all about ISP's trying to move from investing in the network to selling bandwidth off as a scarce commodity to make shareholders happy.

        AFAIK, this is nothing more than a backdoor for ISP's to implement network monitoring, traffic shaping and start working to an internet where bandwidth is virtually scarce.

        In the case authorities need to convey information to the public in as close to realtime as possible, we have old-fashioned tv and radio. That is what broadcast-media are well suited for. Providing masses with information in a short time in a reliable manner. AFAIK, the fact that people start scouring every online newssite is more a panic reaction.

        • Re:Wait (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ZorinLynx (31751) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @03:10PM (#25086771) Homepage

          What these sites need to do is have some sort of overload mode that kicks in when a major disaster occurs that would otherwise kill the site.

          When hits per second exceeds some specific number, stop serving so many ads and images. Don't serve video. Serve text (news stories) and small images only. Switch to static HTML pages for the front page and major stories.

          Not to mention, STOP telling people watching television to go check out the website. That's idiotic; they're ALREADY WATCHING YOU ON TV! Why direct them to the website and load it down further? I remember on 9/11 itself, CNN telling folks to "check out the latest on cnn.com" when cnn.com was *STILL DOWN* from the load!

          If they took these measures they'd be able to keep serving pages in a crisis and not become useless like they did on 9/11.

          I'm certain they've learned from their mistakes and have implemented something like this.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by dapyx (665882)
            I remember that a few hours after the attack, CNN had a plain-text main page.

            That's the only solution in case of disaster: currently, the CNN main page has 18181 bytes and a further 689153 bytes of inline elements (images ,js, css, etc).

          • Re:Wait (Score:4, Informative)

            by ultranova (717540) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:36PM (#25088689)

            When hits per second exceeds some specific number, stop serving so many ads and images. Don't serve video. Serve text (news stories) and small images only. Switch to static HTML pages for the front page and major stories.

            Or simply have two servers. One serves text (HTML and CSS), the other images, video and other fluff. That way the readers can read the stories, and the images load if they will. You could even share the image server between several newssites; they'll be the same content anyway. And you'd want your router to give absolute preference to the packets from the text server, so the images and videos can't clog the pipe.

            And all the pages should be static HTML anyway, with the content management system simply automatically re-generating them as needed. Updates in a newssite happen relatively rarely compared to views, so it makes sense to optimize for the latter.

            Coming to think of it... It would probably require server tweaking, but since we're talking about very small text files, it might be possible to keep the whole front page and every story in it memory mapped. Then you'd simply send them to the socket directly from there, without needing to open the file.

            • There used to be a time when sites were designed for a 28k phoneline modem. Site images were run through image compression software to shrink them from 50k downto 5k (via reducing the color palette). Videos only loaded upon *user request* rather than automatically.

              Today web designers are (mostly) lazy. They throw-up images that are 50-100k in size when they could be optimizing them downto 5-10k. And instead of small animated GIFs, they use gigantic flash videos (imdb.com is the worst in this respect; it

          • by u38cg (607297)
            When 9/11 happened I was staying out in the country, with no TV. Slashdot was for most of the day the only news site that didn't fall over and managed to keep updating. This was rather important to me at the time, because my mother was on a plane to Miami around that time.
      • Bird flu is not a worry. (as planned) Where is your mark on your arm from the small pox shot?
        TechQ

      • Thats got nothing to do with the network and everything to do with not having enough servers.

    • Re:Wait (Score:5, Insightful)

      by db32 (862117) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:27PM (#25086027) Journal
      You clearly have not been in any kind of call center during any kind of panic generating event. You do realize that the phone systems had huge problems keeping up with the 9/11 volume of traffic. Everyone calling everyone trying to check to see if everyone is ok. Everyone clicking refresh every 30 seconds on a dozen news sites trying to get the latest news. Nothing gets us monkeys chattering like something that spooked us.

      I can easily see a need for this kind of stuff. Further, you have to assume that in a global pandemic situation that your own staff may be getting infected too. You need tools that you can use to manage large networks with only a small staff.
      • "you have to assume that in a global pandemic situation that your own staff may be getting infected too. You need tools that you can use to manage large networks with only a small staff."

        I can asume that ISPs are not charitables and they are there for the profit. Since most civilized countries stubbornly insist on having laws forbidding slavery, all ISPs pay wages to their employees so their operation costs grow as the number of such employees. There's no need for a pandemic in order for an ISP wanting to

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        you've just made a compelling argument for cutting off bandwidth. In national emergency when lines are saturated, idiot bothers 911 center with stupid requests, cut them off for twelve hours, and if a real emergency arises in that time them they can fuck off and die. who needs high maintenance stress puppies? no one, that's who. idiots clog adsl lines hitting too many news videos, cut them off. no problem.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        I can easily see a need for this kind of stuff. Further, you have to assume that in a global pandemic situation that your own staff may be getting infected too. You need tools that you can use to manage large networks with only a small staff.

        And once it has those tools, the ISP will kick out the now-unnecessary persons, and again only have the bare minimum personnel needed. A market-driven corporation will optimize for costs, not reliability. Having surplus capacity is necessary to handle crisis, but maint

        • by db32 (862117)
          Operating efficiently and operating at minimal manning are not even REMOTELY the same thing. Just because something can be done with minimal resources doesn't mean that is the most efficient way. Businesses do not optimize for cost, though cost is a major factor in what they do optimize for. They optimize for profit. Reliability is a part of profit because if your service sucks ass it doesn't matter how cheap you can run it, consumers will go elsewhere.

          Now, as far as your regulation, you are mostly ri
    • networks are our lifeblood even more important than actual transportation. Drastic events can be mitigated greatly with COMMUNICATION. With careful planning we could keep from having other problems as well. We have communication channels available that didn't exist last time mass outbreaks like the Plague occurred. Keeping places connected to their governments and researchers is direly important, but when society breaks down how do you protect people from digging up your copper? Or protect the repair wo

    • Re:Wait (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phoenixwade (997892) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:43PM (#25086141)

      How, exactly, does a global pandemic affect a network? Why would they need network management tools in case of such an event?

      Assuming this isn't rhetorical or Trolling, I'll take a swing at answering your questions.

      A pandemic drastically reduces the manpower available to operate and repair the technology. At the same time it Increases traffic across all the networks because, the theory is, more people at home or in shelters means more traffic and load on the networks with fewer technicians to manage the services and keep them operating.. Solid management tools allow fewer technicians to manage more equipment remotely.

          Though it wasn't extremely clear, the article DID give you that information.

      • by smchris (464899)

        I don't think SysAdmins can get that kind of virus on Second Life.

        Actually, I heard our state's person in charge of this sort of thing talk a couple years ago. Rapid quarantine is key to limiting exposure in the population, and anything that can provide greater virtual access to quarantined homes is a good thing. A second reason why quarantine will be widespread is because we have no more infrastructure to handle emergency cases than they had last time when they were setting up cots in armories.

    • by iminplaya (723125)

      Replace "network and bandwidth management controls" with information control. It's about assuring that only "authorized"information is transmitted anywhere. Kinda like the way the government uses the emergency broadcasting system for TV and radio.

      This is only a test...

      • Re:Wait (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @02:07PM (#25086297)
        Well, it's not quite the same. The reason for the EBS (and the old Conelrad system which predated it) is that TV and radio provide a strictly limited number of channels to the populace, and they get usurped in an emergency to make sure that people are properly informed. Eliminating "unauthorized" sources was irrelevant because in that context there are no unauthorized sources.

        In the case of (ahem!) "network management", yeah you're probably right. Keep a lid on what's going on so the people don't freak and panic. And you know what? I don't really have a problem with that, because in many disaster scenarios a panic will kill and maim more people than the event itself.

        The problem, as I see it, is that simply having such network controls in place means they'll get used for non-emergency purposes (such as, "we don't want word of {insert political leader here} bribery scandal getting out.")

        Right now, there's not much that government (or the private sector) can do to prevent dissemination of specific information via the Internet, short of shutting down major segments of it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that would like to build some automated censorship into the network. The question is whether or not the ability to control information flow in an emergency is worth the risk of that capability being used in other contexts. I don't think it is: if nothing else, the recent history has unequivocally demonstrated that the Federal Government cannot be trusted with our communications network.
    • Re:Wait (Score:4, Funny)

      by RDW (41497) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @02:24PM (#25086439)

      'How, exactly, does a global pandemic affect a network?'

      Basically, it comes down to all the 'viral' licenses that govern much of the software the internet runs on. To put it simply, the net behaves in much the same way as a series of tubes, which eventually become clogged up as the licenses proliferate. Luckily, Al Gore designed the Internet to survive even a nuclear war, so even a viral pandemic (interpreted by the net as censorship) can be routed around.

      'Why would they need network management tools in case of such an event?'

      This is of course the correct and universal response of ISPs to all eventualities. Too many people taking up that loss leader monthly deal? - Network Management. Customers actually using the bandwidth they've paid for? - Network Management. Rampant piracy detected by your friends at the RIAA? - Network Management. Catastrophic civilization-threatening hyperplague? - Network Management.

    • After the last ten days of financial and economic pandemic, and the slow-motion implosion of the US economy over the next couple of years, I don't think NMS will be that high on anyone's priority list. (And I write as someone about to start evaluating NMS at work. OpenNMS looks good so far :> )
    • If there is a global pandemic, and IT professionals are all home sick (or dead), normal network maintenance could be a problem.

    • How, exactly, does a global pandemic affect a network? Why would they need network management tools in case of such an event?

      The biggest effect would probably be the massive number of people who suddenly want to telecommute; either because they've been quarantined or because they want to stay at home and minimize the chances of coming into contact with someone who's sick.

      • by chappel (1069900)
        I came to point out the same thing - pandemic = tital wave of telecommuting traffic. I'd mod the parent up, but all my points seem to have leaked away.
    • by morcego (260031)

      It is a very valid issue.

      In case of a global pandemic, keeping the communication networks up and running (well) is very important, and a very tricky thing to do. The first thing that comes to mind is the necessity for some kind of high priority communication procedure. Also, lots of people will be trying to contact lots of other people (I hope, because if they are trying to contact themselves, the problem gets worst).

      Add the fact a lot of maintenance people will be home sick (or in hospitals), and you have

    • In a pandemic, most ppl will elect to be inside. Away from everybody. Not breathing on each other. The use of the net will JUMP leaps and bounds. And numerous ppl will want new connections, which will mean that their techs will be exposed to disease.
    • by caluml (551744)

      How, exactly, does a global pandemic affect a network?

      Because lots of people like me would be ringing their bosses, and saying: "I'm not risking dying, I'll be VPNd in, working from home for the next 3-6 months" perhaps?

      Of course, if I had some work to do where I had to go in, I'd go in, but I'd want to minimise my exposure to anything. 10 metres over a LAN cable versus 10 miles over a VPN connection? It's pretty much the same (just slower).

      It's been 4 minutes since you last successfully posted a comment. Gad.

    • by Angostura (703910)

      Let me paraphrase you question: "Why exactly does a network need people to run it?"

    • I've heard that this is a planned attack by Big Corporations and the WTO and US Government. :-) Weaponized Avian Flu [healthfreedomusa.org]
    • Easy - Viruses.

  • Make sure you set up log rotation and make sure it works.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:24PM (#25085999)

    "The most important tool at ISPs' disposal during a serious pandemic, panelists agreed, was that of network and bandwidth management controls"

    WTF? During a pandemic I should think most employees of an ISP will have far more important things to worry about (you know, trivial stuff like their families etc) than whether the network bandwidth is ok. FFS.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151)

      "WTF? During a pandemic I should think most employees of an ISP will have far more important things to worry about (you know, trivial stuff like their families etc) than whether the network bandwidth is ok. FFS."

      Pandemics don't stop society from funtioning, they change how it functions because more people sicken and die.

      Internet communication will be necessary (and even more useful, since personal contact should be avoided), and those who maintain ISPs will still need jobs. Working in a server room will be

    • During a pandemic, the most important thing is for people to stay home and avoid physical contact with other people, including extended family and friends.

      What's they best way to maintain some semblance of a relationship with someone without physical contact? These days, it is the Internet.

      • by caluml (551744)

        What's they best way to maintain some semblance of a relationship with someone without physical contact? These days, it is the Internet.

        Alternatively, break out the Ham radio gear. Voice, morse, packet data - it's all good.

    • by weave (48069) *
      Part of my employer's response to an event like this is to have as many people work from home as possible -- and to do so requires the Internet be functioning and people shut-in by illness aren't clogging the net downloading porn.
    • "The most important tool at ISPs' disposal during a serious pandemic, panelists agreed, was that of network and bandwidth management controls"

      WTF? During a pandemic I should think most employees of an ISP will have far more important things to worry about (you know, trivial stuff like their families etc) than whether the network bandwidth is ok.

      These people live on the planet Earth - where it is generally accepted that in the event of an emergency, certain categories of wokrers (fire, police, hospit

      • by Viol8 (599362)

        An ISP is hardly a vital public utility. If you think it is then you need to get out more.

        • Maybe on your planet ever increasing numbers of people and virtually all businesses don't depend on ISP's for communication and business transactions. Here on the Planet Earth however, they do. Maybe one day your planet will mature, after all phones and power on Earth weren't originally considered vital public infrastructure.

          • by Viol8 (599362)

            Like I said , you need to get out more and see the real world outside your IT ivory tower.

            • Which is an amusing claim - as I don't now and haven't ever worked in IT. It's also noted that in the face of facts presented on my part, all you present is personal comments.

              • by Viol8 (599362)

                I've worked in the banking, media and science sectors and I've yet to work in a firm that couldn't survive without the internet albeit with a bit more hassle for some of the staff. If you seriously think western business is predicated upon websites and email you really need re-evaluate your beliefs.

                • There is more to the internet than websites and email you know. Ever heard of VOIP for just one example? And just how do you think that the branches of a modern bank communicate account [financial] data with the central branch?

                  I'm done here I think. With each message you only dig yourself deeper.

                  • by Viol8 (599362)

                    "Ever heard of VOIP "

                    Ever heard of POTS?

                    "And just how do you think that the branches of a modern bank communicate account [financial] data with the central branch?"

                    Err , they use secure leased lines moron.

    • What planet are these people on?

      They're on planet Earth, of course. Now, what drugs they're taking is another issue. I think I might like to try some.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:28PM (#25086039)
    The biggest problem will be lack of staff. People won't want to meet up with too many others, for fear of catching whatever it is that's going around. While ISP staff can work from home, that's only a a small part of the problem. Suppliers will also have key people unavailable, so orders will take longer to process, technicians will not be able to provide the 24*7 cover you're used to (even if you're contracted for it) and help desks will be even less help, as their agents won't come in to work.

    None of these points is unique to ISPs, and it's rather self-important of them to think that they will have any special requirements. In fact, what is more likely to affect them is the realisation, after the problems have cleared, that the business can run just as well with only half the staff doing their jobs - so the other half can be cut. Guess what? It'll be the ones who made it in to work who'll get retained.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by RealGrouchy (943109)

      We solved that problem ages ago.

      We locked our sysadmin in the server room with a lifetime supply of canned meat and diet cola. The area is hermetically sealed, so no virus can get in to threaten the health of our network operator.

      After the initial round of tests and a new sysadmin, we added a commensurate supply of oxygen and removed all paperclips and duct tape from the room. We're confident that our uptime will be immune to a global pandemic.

      - RG>

    • On the latter point? Not so fast... $company can (in most cases) run on half the staff because their orders will be effectively cut in half (or more) during the crisis, their production will drop sharply during this time, and the whole shebang will be slowed down anyway.

      And yes, this will likely include networking/ISPs, because no sysadmin/netadmin is going to be stupid enough to cause downtime for expansions, performance tweaking, other installs, non-critical problems, etc. You simply run it until it dies

  • Wrong Priorities (Score:3, Insightful)

    by failedlogic (627314) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:29PM (#25086051)

    These guys don't have it figured out yet. The priorities are still: billing systems and still providing crappy customer service!

  • Okay, so say some incredibly nasty communicable virus shows up tomorrow. We all go home and hide from each other. When exactly do we get to come out again? It seems that the virus will likely never go away entirely, and as soon as we all come out again, it'll just rip through the population.

    Might as well just keep doing what we do, take our losses, let the survivors immune systems adapt, and move on.

    • by flerchin (179012)

      On a macro basis you are probably correct. However, on a micro basis things are less clear. To the nation, one dead taxpayer is just a lamentable as another. To you, it makes a big difference whether you die, or some other schmuck who didn't stay inside and wait out the pandemic dies. Each individual will try to maximize his own chances for survival.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto (415985)

      It all depends on the bug in question. Not a doctor, but at a guess...

      If it was something like Ebola, where you require person-to-person contact, you just wait until the affected people die/get-quarantined/etc and the bug dies off in general.

      If it's something that can survive outside the human body for a short period of time, then we isolate ourselves and wait it out.

      If it's something that can jump species easily and/or survive for long periods of time away from a host? We're pretty much in the shit, unless

    • by Ironchew (1069966)

      Okay, so say some incredibly nasty communicable virus shows up tomorrow. We all go home and hide from each other. When exactly do we get to come out again?

      Basement-dwelling Slashdotters are a big enough sample of conclusive evidence that they might as well throw padlocks on the doors and be done with it.

    • by NIckGorton (974753) * on Saturday September 20, 2008 @02:55PM (#25086657)
      Well first, you can outlast epidemics by hiding long enough. For you to get be likely to get infected you need a certain amount of the bug in circulation. If you wait till that strain has gone through you may dodge the bullet. (Think about people who are thirty who get a primary varicella (chicken pox) infection. They dodged that bullet for many years (often by chance) even though VZV is always out there.

      Given the example of avian influenza, the time that you get infected also changes the likelihood that you will die. If there is a major first wave that kills large volumes, that would be the time to definitely want to avoid infection. First off, we have less chance of knowing the best treatments early on in an epidemic. Treatment of a new (or newly changed) illness is developed as we gain experience with it. For example, survival in the first wave of the AIDS epidemic was abysmal while now it is markedly better.

      Secondly, when there are high volumes of patients in the initial wave, your chance of getting that ICU spot, omseltavir, or a ventillator should you need one are slim. If you get it later when the demand is less, you stand a better chance of having the resources necessary to give you the best chance of survival. In addition, until you get a cadre of health care providers who survived the infection, people will be less willing to get 'up close and personal' to provide you care.

      So there is a definite advantage of not being in the middle of the big bulge of sick folks. Even if your infection is inevitable, you'd like to get it when we know more and have more resources mobilized. Plus if you wait long enough we might just get an effective vaccine.
  • from taking advantage of the lack of law to loot store after store of intellectual property over bittorrent and other such pirate protocols?

    This is clearly any responsible government's first concern! I'm outraged they are concerned with "bandwidth management"!

  • Misstated Headline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:45PM (#25086149) Journal

    It should be "What ISPs and Telcos Said When Asked" etc. It's called "response bias", that someone will have an answer to pretty much anything if asked, because the asking implies they should have an answer to provide. I'm betting most respondents didn't actually have any such plans or concerns, and those that did had them placed firmly in the PR department rather than anyplace that might know about and have an effect on operations.

    • True - and as the chances of a given condition get more remote, the less likely it is that anyone has any sort of plan in place.

      In tech terms, we can use backups as an analogy. The plans are pretty damned precise for contingencies like user goofs, a server blowing up, etc. But the D/R plans usually get a lot more vague when we start talking about floods, earthquakes, and fire... and these are still things that have a somewhat tangible probability.

      When we finally get out to the level of civil unrest and pand

  • to make sure that prominent links to information such as the CDC guidelines while jackhammering in references to the fact that antibiotics don't work on viruses.

    They should also research prepare obituaries for people other than Steve Jobs.

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:48PM (#25086177)

    will start hyping some super bug of the year. Will it be SARS II, Super Spanish Bird Flu, or will it be another year where I get a bad cold for 3 - 4 days, get over it and move on without a flu shot.

    Come on, these pandemic scares happen every fall and it's boy crying wolf at this point. History indicates that eventually they will be right, but will that be this year or in 50 years...

    That being said, I can understand disaster planning and having a plan just in case. But it's that time of the year when all the 24 hours news outlets will start harping what will be the next killer flu that does not materialize.

    • by NIckGorton (974753) * on Saturday September 20, 2008 @03:20PM (#25086821)

      Come on, these pandemic scares happen every fall and it's boy crying wolf at this point.

      Wow. I remember that same thing when I lived in New Orleans from 2002-2005. Every time there was a hurricane in the gulf people would be asked to evacuate and idiots like you would decide to stay, since its just the government crying wolf.

      You could also make that same argument for using seatbelts. Or helmets. You could point out that 99.9% of the time its totally useless. As an ER doctor, I hear that argument all of the time.

      Generally from people on whom I am reducing a fracture or sewing a laceration or prepping for the OR so they can be rid of their pesky little spleen.

      The whole point for disaster preparedness and injury prevention is to have something you don't need 99.9% of the time so you can save lives when the time comes that you do need it. You may think its crazy or paranoid, but having been the ER chief resident in Brooklyn's largest trauma center on September 11, 2001 and having narrowly missed Katrina call me an overcautious kinda guy... But I've seen the results of shitty planning and blase attitudes like yours before.

      So stop whining, get your flu shot, wear your seatbelt and helmet, and make sure you have a personal plan for when the shit hits the fan. You don't have to encase your house in plastic sheeting and duct tape, wear a tin foil hat, and have a mound of guns in your fallout shelter basement. But having a plan and a small emergency kit is a good idea for anyone.

      • This guy is some kind of real-world Forest Gump, standing on the sidelines of history...

        Seriously, though. That's absolutely uncanny. Where are you now? Should I be avoiding that place?

      • by Steve Baker (3504)

        Wow. I remember that same thing when I lived in New Orleans from 2002-2005. Every time there was a hurricane in the gulf people would be asked to evacuate and idiots like you would decide to stay, since its just the government crying wolf.

        Wasn't that the moral of the story of the boy who cried wolf? You cry wolf enough and people stop listening and there is no one to save you when it really happens. If there is a history of overstating the danger, then is it really that idiotic to ignore the warnings? M

        • Flu shots haven't been shown to be effective, bicycle helmets seem to increase injuries. You can't plan for random events, you can't even imagine how it's going to go down. Work in a tall building? What's the plan? Have a parachute at work and practice your base-jumping I guess.

          Please provide some sources for your wildly inaccurate statements.

          Flu vaccination is quite efficatious [wiley.com]. Helmets are shown to significantly reduce the risk of injury [bmj.com]. And the tall building argument is a poorly conceived strawman. However the plan for working in a tall building might include knowing the best route out and practicing it a few times as well as ensuring that you exercise weekly to have adequate physical fitness to promptly exit the building. Though you aren't the first one to suggest parachut [nytimes.com]

    • by nbauman (624611)

      Come on, these pandemic scares happen every fall and it's boy crying wolf at this point. History indicates that eventually they will be right

      History indicates that pandemics are as common as floods and earthquakes, and every few generations they kill 50 million people. http://www.google.com/search?en&q=1918+influenza+epidemic [google.com]

  • by compumike (454538) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @01:57PM (#25086237) Homepage

    So, while we know that the Internet is designed to provide routing protocols that can handle damaged nodes and take them out of the loop, are we still building systems in place that depend on the Internet being able to move packets from A to B, in the midst of any sort of prolonged crisis?

    Currently, real "main street" business already suffer when their net goes down even for half an hour, but that's usually when the last link between them and the ISP goes down.

    But in a serious or prolonged emergency situation, I'd be more concerned about links in the middle going down.

    So are people building safety systems (healthcare records, utility company systems, etc) that depend on the Internet working in order to do business? Just think of what happens when the phones go down and companies can't process credit cards... but much worse. How are these ISPs and Telcos even supposed to allow their network admins to work from home... if the net is down?

    --
    Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation! Free videos. [nerdkits.com]

    • by vertinox (846076)

      How are these ISPs and Telcos even supposed to allow their network admins to work from home... if the net is down?

      I suppose if they are knowledgeable enough they can SSH or telnet into work with direct dialup access.

      That depends on if they still have modems laying around on both ends and that the phone system still works.

    • by cdrguru (88047) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @03:13PM (#25086777) Homepage

      The reality of the situation is much worse than that. Companies have been building their infrastructure around things like Just In Time Inventory and the like for a while. What this means is that your neighborhood shop has just enough stuff for maybe a week and then they run out.

      When UPS went on strike you would have thought these folks would have learned their lesson that infrastructure is fragile and you better be ready to roll with it. Sadly, they did not. The result is any prolonged emergency that affects electricity or fuel supplies will doom many businesses, especially the smaller ones.

      Also, the interdependence of our current infrastructure is incredible. We seem to have built a society on the idea that nothing bad ever happens. So that when it does everything goes at once.

      All it takes is a little damage and it cripples the electric grid. Which then disables the fuel pumps for filling up the trucks needed to service the electric problems. Which then locks down all transportation in the area and makes everyone dependent on outside assistance. What? The state or federal assistance isn't coming because they are too busy elsewhere? Impossible. People will sit down and wait for help because they "know" it is coming. Real Soon Now we will all be saved. By someone. After all, someone has to help. They just have to.

      Internet? I'd be a lot more worried about being trapped in a city with no food deliveries and no stockpile of food items anywhere within 300 miles.

  • Great, but... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I think it's a great idea to protect such a critical resource during a time of crisis. It seems like the importance of networks are often undervalued in emergencies.

    However, *dons a tinfoil hat* does anyone else see a potential for other uses of such crisis plans? Who gets to determine what a crisis is, and how an ISP is supposed to respond? While I am going to try to be optimistic and assume everyone behind this has good intentions, the implications for its misuse are scary.

    Say that a bunch of people get

  • Thats the second time I hear about big pandemic plans for this fall. The first one was the plan on creating one. Some people think, that this will be another cover up story, like 9/11 for explaining why the world economy collapses. Hmm.. Hope I'm just paranoid here.
  • Give me some (any) incentive, and I'll be happy to seed your content. I can't believe it's 2008 and no one has come up with some type of web services sitting on top of bittorrent. The Internet is designed to keep on chuggin' even if you tear it's arms & legs off. Yet these Masters of Information companies still use a centralized approach with their content. Bittorrent is The Perfect Application with respect to the purpose of the Internet & in dealing with a major disaster. I see it as those companie
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cdrguru (88047)

      Wow, that is a good one. Let's see here, you have most all of the US on seriously asymmetrical links and you want to share your bandwidth with large commercial providers. Ha ha ha.

      DSL is slowing becoming more symmetrical, but is has a long way to go in most markets. So you have 5Mb download and 500Kb upload or worse. Cable works by allocating slots and often you have the situation where out of 100 potential slots you have 90 of them for download and 10 for upload. And yes, you are fighting with all of

  • by Shade of Pyrrhus (992978) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @02:15PM (#25086351)
    "Such as influenza" my ass! They're preparing for an outbreak of zombies! It's a global marketing test, in addition to a way of dealing with people who use too much bandwidth!
  • Is it just me, or is this convenient timing? If controlling bandwidth during a pandemic or similar crisis was their true concern, this topic would have be on the table 6 months after 9/11. The next question to ask is how does one make sure companies like Comcast don't apply these measures when there is no crisis?
  • Oh, I see... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by pixelcort (413708)

    Oh, I see.

    So this is their excuse to filter BitTorrent and related high-bandwidth protocols.

    Interesting strategy. It reminds me of censorship in the name of protecting children.

  • Hopeless, I'd say (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @03:29PM (#25086875) Homepage

    One of the biggest problems with any drawn-out emergency is going to be information control. The government is going to want to tell people to do certain things and, if they are done, it will be better for everyone.

    For example, staying off the phone. Not rushing out to the WalMart SuperCenter to get the last couple of loaves of bread. Stuff like that.

    Unfortunately, a lot of these people are going to be looking at any "official" pronouncements as just so much self-serving BS. When some web site blog/chat forum/etc. says the government is out to kill as many people as possible so the Senators can each have 10,000 acre estates some will believe. When the same web forums say that if you don't want to starve you better join in the mob breaking into the WalMart SuperCenter, people will do so - even if the store was emptied two days before. Of course, all of the people in the mob will then catch whatever it is that is going around at the time - or just get injured further stressing the health care providers.

    What are the chances of this not happening and everyone sitting at home listening to the government and doing what is best for everyone? Today, I'd say zero. I'd say that it would be better if the government said nothing at all - because lots of influential people will want to get on their soap box to dispute anything "the government" says, no matter how much sense it might make.

    Avian flu coming to the US? Probably is, soon. When it hits, it is going to be a disaster and most people will follow whatever sort of "leader" they can latch onto. And the Internet is full of folks that will jump into that role. For better or worse. I'm expecting worse, myself.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WamBam (1275048)
      I agree with you but I think that keeping lines of communication open is not good just for conveying information to the public, but keeping information flowing between important people during such a crisis. The ability for law enforcement, researchers and medical professionals to collect data at a local level and then being able to share that across the country or across the globe is going to be vital. I think that pandemics might be a disaster that's a bit different from an earthquake or tsunami. It's rea
  • Closer to home (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by DigiShaman (671371)

    Hey, how about we deal with the on-going pandemic of zombie/virus infected computers and spammers first. Killing THAT traffic would be a network upgrade in of itself.

  • So, uh, no one here is talking about network monitoring or control, which is the whole issue of this story...
    I am an engineer at an ISP, and I can tell you that we are not doing anything like this. I haven't even heard of this issue. We are just trying to keep our clients' dns servers running (they keep patching them and breaking them), and upgrading our fiber capacity (OC12 to gige, OC48 to 10gige).
    Having said that, we use ssh and a web browser (Nagios) to control and monitor, so not sure what you would

  • It might be more useful if someone had connected hospital information together so that a pandemic is caught at it's earliest stages.

    A couple of years ago my wife got severely ill nausea and vomiting. I took her in and they treated her and she was fine 24 hours later. But later I learned another hospital had seen 12 cases in the previous 24 hrs. My wife was the second at this particular hospital and one of 4 before we left the ER. But after talking to a friend of a friend who was a doctor I found out tha
  • I kept an open mind and read the article, then I get to the last paragraph on page one.

    "In particular, Mayer said people would have to be told not to stream videos or use peer-to-peer technology that could clog the local network and prevent basic communications such as e-mail from getting through. While Mayer acknowledged that the network neutrality debate has made some carriers âoenervousâ about giving priority to certain traffic, he said in a true national disaster, the FCC would no doubt give c

  • I'll first lightly touch on just what an epidemic or a pandemic actually *is*. AFAIK, there is no hard and fast rule about what constitutes an epidemic or a pandemic. The rough guideline seems to be 1) that it be a communicable disease (so no cancer) 2)that it be actually or even just potentially fatal (rules out the common cold) and 3) Must infect more people, or infect them faster than expected. (with "expected" being highly variable depending on the disease in question.)

    Does this mean 1 in 100 dying? 1

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