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The Internet Canada Communications News

Satellite Glitch Leaves Northern Canada In the (Internet) Dark 282

zentigger writes "At approximately 06:36 EDT Thursday, October 6, 2011, the Anik F2 satellite experienced an attitude control issue and lost earth lock, affecting C, Ku and Ka services. The satellite went into safety mode and moved from pointing to the earth to pointing to the sun. This has put most of Northern Canada in the dark as all internet and phone services come in over F2."
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Satellite Glitch Leaves Northern Canada In the (Internet) Dark

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06, 2011 @12:34PM (#37627464)

    So they will politely and patiently wait out the problem.

    • They're probably only 10 people, anyway.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by davester666 ( 731373 )

        Why is the default position for the satellite to provide internet acces to the sun?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I would guess as to not interfere with other satellite signals. The antennae are design to broadcast in a certain pattern.

          • Yeah, but if multiple satellites point at the sun then it still gets interference.
            • Yeah, but if multiple satellites point at the sun then it still gets interference.

              The Sun has yet to send us an angry letter saying we're interfering with its soaps.

            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              If the residents of the sun would care to file a complaint, I'm sure it will be given due consideration.

      • by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @05:43PM (#37632514) Homepage Journal

        They're probably only 10 people, anyway.

        I was one of the '10' the last time [wikimedia.org] this happened.

        I was living in Iqaluit [wikimedia.org] at the time, but was actually in flight to Pond Inlet [wikimedia.org] at the northern tip of Baffin Island when the outage occurred. It was a very bizarre feeling to arrive in one of the most remote communities in the world and find I'd stepped back in time by a century.

        Telephone, TV, and most other means of communications simply stopped. But people in the Arctic are adaptable. They don't last long if they aren't. Emergency communications were hopped from airport-to-pilot-to-ground from the hamlet (It's a LONG way from any other habitation). We hunkered down, and yes, politely waited for news.

        As the wikipedia link indicates, we waited for days while the local telco flew technicians across the territory to reposition their dishes and get services running.

        It was the experience of living in a remote location - close to the technological edge, as it were - that led me to drop what I was doing a few years later and leave for the South Pacific, where I live today. (Also: When I left Iqaluit, I promised myself I'd never be cold again.) I live in a country with only satellite service, and have worked for the last 8 years helping to improve communications here.

        (Not so) amusingly, about a year and a half after I arrived, the satellite providing service to our region suffered catastrophic failure [imagicity.com]. I was able to use my experience in the Arctic to help convince people here of the dangers of relying on a single source of data communications. We should be getting a submarine cable in 2012-13, and once that happens, I just might be able to rely on Internet again.

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 )

      I've been in places like that before, and it's about all that you can do. There is no sense in getting upset over something that is beyond anyone's control.

  • by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @12:35PM (#37627468)
    This is the perfect chance to find out the real cost of a first world nation not having internet access. We need these numbers to make better laws about internet access restriction and even to decide whether it should be a right.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Northern Canada is not really a first-world region. It's mostly empty, frozen land and remote communities of native people living pretty basic lifestyles. Not much in common with the cities in the South.

    • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @01:58PM (#37629008) Homepage Journal

      A right?

      I don't think you know what that word is.

      There are only individual rights. The 'civil or labor rights' are actually entitlements given by government decree to some, while imposing obligations on others. Same with anything else that you have to be provided by somebody. It's an entitlement, not a right.

      I had this same discussion a number of times, why do people never seem to understand basic concepts?

      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2450838&cid=37575982 [slashdot.org]
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2450838&cid=37554214 [slashdot.org]
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2450838&cid=37558726 [slashdot.org]
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2450838&cid=37558814 [slashdot.org]
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2450838&cid=37558814 [slashdot.org]
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2450838&cid=37556278 [slashdot.org]
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2450838&cid=37553622 [slashdot.org]

      'Right' is a concept that is only meaningful to describe a relationship between an individual an government, because gov't is a system, not an individual.

      Relationships between private individuals and businesses are covered by criminal and contract law.

      Having a 'right' to Internet would require this to be an obligation upon businesses that would have to provide this entitlement, obviously this would make it into an 'essential' service and the prices, by the way, would immediately be much higher than what they are now.

      See health care, insurance, education and AT&T monopoly that was given to it by government, which destroyed 4000 competitors for a good example of how that shit works.

      • by Toonol ( 1057698 )
        'Right' is a concept that is only meaningful to describe a relationship between an individual an government, because gov't is a system, not an individual.

        I don't think this is accurate. You have the right to speak, and I don't have the right to stop you. I just have the right to not assist you in any way, or allow you to use my property to execute that right. This is true in individual transactions, even when there is no government involved.

        In a broader sense, I completely agree with your comments
    • Do you even have two functioning brain cells to rub together ?

      Northern Canada is the sparsely-populated area that's too friggin cold for most Canadians. There are only a handful of small towns up there, primarily native americans and the occasional labour town. Not only is the population very very small, but I'd wager that very few of them are technically minded. The mere fact that all of their telecomms are handled by a lone satellite should be a pretty big hint about how minimal their needs are. It's

    • by sjbe ( 173966 )

      This is the perfect chance to find out the real cost of a first world nation not having internet access.

      You haven't been to northern Canada have you? It's about as sparsely populated a place as you are ever likely to find. The vast majority of the population lives within a few hours drive of the southern border.

  • Even the editors* noticed that and added the parenthetical clarification.

    "In the dark" does not mean "in the literal darkness, without the power to generate light or heat." I.e., not a power generation or distribution problem, which is the expected context of the stock phrase "in the dark".

    They mean "In the INTARWEBS dark." As in, no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube.

    You know, an actual crisis.

    *Seriously. How bad do you have to be, that the world-famous Slashdot Editor Corps feels compelled to actually edit

    • Although you are correct in that it is not a literal power outage, it is far more than just the "INTARWEBS", because so much in the North depends on Satellite communication.

      From the article:
      "People in Iqaluit are reporting they are without cell phone service and long-distance calling, bank machines and debit-card machines. At least one bank in the city has not opened today as a result. Flights are also being delayed."

      • From the article: "People in Iqaluit are reporting they are without cell phone service and long-distance calling, bank machines and debit-card machines. At least one bank in the city has not opened today as a result. Flights are also being delayed."

        From the book of Common F. Sense: "Banks and other critical infrastructure services should probably consider a backup land-line. It wasn't that long ago that ATM/debit card machines were dialing up to the banks. A slow bank transaction is a hell of a lot better than NO bank transaction."

        Along those same lines, don't suppose there would be any industry-wide regulation that requires that banks and other critical infrastructure services actually have a backup connection or plan to mitigate mass outages like

  • Meanwhile (Score:3, Funny)

    by otaku244 ( 1804244 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @12:39PM (#37627536)
    Residents on the Sun say their reception has gone up 100%
  • by DigitalSorceress ( 156609 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @12:40PM (#37627558)

    It's as if a hundred voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

    Ok, sorry that was in bad taste. I love my frosty neighbors to the North (I've spent a lot of time in Canada and really do love the place and the people). I hope they get interwebz back soon.

  • Dont they have undersea fiber connections to the country, and DSL and stuff? Or even dialup? Why would half the country use only Satellite as thier Internet connection?
    • by LikwidCirkel ( 1542097 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @12:49PM (#37627712)
      This only effects remote northern communities where fiber is unfeasible. It's around 60% of the area and much less than 1% of the population.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by isorox ( 205688 )

      Dont they have undersea fiber connections to the country, and DSL and stuff?
      Or even dialup?

      Why would half the country use only Satellite as thier Internet connection?

      99.999999% of Candians live within 100 miles of the U.S. Border, in towns and cities, with cable and dsl.

      There are 6,784 people living north of about 52N. Even some of these people may have cable and satellite in their towns, but the towns rely on satellites for their uplinks.

      • Ok... I actually checked the population numbers... Canada total - 35MM. Northwestern Territories - 43,000. Nunavummiut - 33,000. Biggest cities in each are 20,000 and 6,000, respectively. So, that is a whole 0.2% without internet service if the whole territories are out.

      • Whatever idiot moderated this informative should go look for a sale on a new hyperbole detector. There's roughly that many people above 68N, and there's a city of nearly 1,000,000 [wikipedia.org] north of 52N. The general point is valid though - the parts of Canada affected by this are expansive and barely populated.
      • by Monkey ( 16966 )

        I live in the Yukon. Only one of our communities, Old Crow, is on a satellite uplink. Everywhere else in the territory is linked by either fiber or a microwave shot. However, in the NWT and Nunavut they have many remote communities like Old Crow that don't even have road access, and therefore satellite is the only realistic option.

    • Too expensive to run/maintain cables to every city/town/village in the north. If you look at this map [satbeams.com] you can see the coverage you get for the cost of one satellite.
    • Dont they have undersea fiber connections to the country, and DSL and stuff?

      Yup, it runs under the Canadian ocean which entirely separates the continent of the USA from the continent of canada.

      Or even dialup?

      This is no time for pizza.

      Why would half the country use only Satellite as thier Internet connection?

      Because the other half are running away from man eating polar bears.

  • by ColoradoAuthor ( 682295 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @12:46PM (#37627666) Homepage
    Only those communities that are remote enough to depend solely on satellite are affected. FTA: "Northwestel said all communities across Nunavut, N.W.T. and Yukon that receive their long distance calling and data service via satellite are affected."
      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        So that's like what, 100 people or so?

      • Destruction Bay, really?
        • It’s a little bay on Kluane Lake. It’s named that because they lost so much equipment there while building the Alcan (Alaskan) Highway. There’s not much there. The nearby village of Burwash has a gas station, restaurant, and hotel, and that’s about it. There are a number of Athabaskans (Northern Tutchone I think, or maybe the northernmost Southern Tutchone) living around there, as well as a few white folks. It’s a beautiful place in the summer, but it’s ferociously cold a

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      This could be really bad for some of the medical clinics. I could be wrong but I think I read somewhere that a good number of small clinics in that area depend on video conferencing so that staff can consult with doctors in larger clinics. Add in the need to call for medevac and other services and it could really cause some issues. I bet the Ham operators are busy right now.
      Maybe the should keep a hot backup in orbit? Yes I know that would be expensive.

  • The satellite went into safety mode and moved from pointing to the earth to pointing to the sun.

    Why on earth is this what it does when it goes into safety mode? How is that supposed to help the problem/prevent it from becoming worse?

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      From the article comments:
      Note that the satellite is pointing in the wrong direction on purpose. This is standard procedure to prevent a malfunctioning satellite from interfering with other services.

    • Safety for external functions. It isn't so much designed to help the satellite's problem as to prevent other services from being disrupted.

    • Safety means safety for the life of the satellite, i.e. you give up on the mission and try to keep the satellite alive until someone can diagnose and fix the original problem.

      If you lose attitude control (or lose track of your orientation) you need to orient the spacecraft to get power with no a priori knowledge of your orientation. At Geosyncrhonous altitude, the Earth is only 18.75 degrees wide, and it is surprisingly difficult to find by searching, and while you are searching, you likely have no power fr

    • Most satellite safety modes involve pointing some primary axis at the Sun because it ensures solar power gets to at least part of the solar arrays while minimizing the liklihood that the communications fixtures would interfere with instruments on other satellite platforms. It's a good, "safe and minimally powered," mode to try to recover from.
    • Well if it has solar panels (pretty good assumption) I'd say it's recharging.
  • An opportunity to slander our norther neighbors without retribution. :)

    Canadians can't play hockey! Canadian beer tastes like pee! Tree sap is not mothers milk!

    hahahaha naner naner naner. :P

  • by mclearn ( 86140 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @12:54PM (#37627810) Homepage
    Remember, Canada is a big place. 75% of all Canadians live within 90 miles of the US border. So keep this in mind while you read all of the comments saying what a calamity this is for Canadians. Northern Canada -- and I say this as a Canadian, though some may disagree (like we disagree about what it means to be in Eastern Canada or Western Canada) -- generally are those who live above 55-60 degrees N which is an exceptionally small percentage of the total population.
  • by BagOBones ( 574735 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @12:59PM (#37627892)

    Should probably read....
    Remote communities in Canada's far north without internet.

    Any major populated area connected by land line will not be impacted... In fact I would argue that nothing larger than a "Town" is likely impacted impacted.

  • by davegravy ( 1019182 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @01:00PM (#37627902)

    Anik F2 satellite experienced an attitude control issue

    Great, so now we have self-aware machines with personality disorders orbiting us? Who's gonna capitalize on the budding satellite anger-management industry?

    • Rocket science: "attitude"
      Plain English: "which way it's pointing"

      Rocket science: "Anik F2 satellite experienced an attitude control issue"
      Plain English: "Anik F2 satellite started spinning out of control"

  • Who designed that comm system?
  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @01:13PM (#37628158)

    If you want reliable backup comms in the wilderness you use radio.

    The reliance on phones and internet is convenient, but if you can afford those you can afford radio gear and spend some time learning how to use it.

    Amateur radio operators were the original nerds long before computers existed.

    http://www.rac.ca/ [www.rac.ca]

    http://www.arrl.org/ [arrl.org]

    • How the hell can you get porn over the radio?
    • I would wager that most of the folks living in rural Canada do, in fact, own and operate radios as both a hobby and as an emergency backup. I know radios are very popular in rural areas in the States. I would be surprised if any of the folks roughing it in the Canadian wilderness did not have some sort of radio gear that they know how to use.
    • by Clsid ( 564627 )

      I would just use a second satellite as a backup. It is still radio you know. Besides, what better place to place an antenna in than in space?

  • Shaw Broadcast Services uses Anik F2 so cable customs tv may be missing out out on channels and maybe US NHL CENTER ICE customs will not be able to get games on Canada channels.

  • Go read this page [dawn.com] about how "The humble old rooftop TV aerial could bring superfast Internet to even the most remote shack in the Australian Outback and help solve the problem of how to connect isolated communities across the globe."
  • http://www.shawbroadcast.ca/docs/signal_lists/hd_signal_list_transport_oct11_e.pdf [shawbroadcast.ca]

    The NHL is big in Canada so like the feeds will have to move and other channels may get kicked off air.

    I know that iN DEMAND uses shaw broadcast to get the feeds for the CBC, TSN, rogers sports net games.

  • Also note that Shaw Direct (Formerly Starchoice) uses Annik K2 for half of its channels.

    As of 2010, Shaw Direct had over 900,000 subscribers.[1] It broadcasts on Ku band from two communications satellites, Anik F1R at 107.3W and Anik F2 at 111.1W

    People really hope they have a solution before the first game of the season, which is tonight. They will lose many subscribers due to this, no doubt about it.

  • If you want to see what living with satellite communications is like, KNet has some detailed statistics and news:

    http://tech.knet.on.ca/ [knet.on.ca]

    It looks like they use a different satellite, but the News section discusses the sorts of things that affect service and if you scroll down the list you'll find traffic data for communities served by satellite.

    Outages are common, and can be caused by anything from the town's electrical generators going down to the nature of the satellite's orbit.

  • Much like the ones that have occurred in major blackouts. Can't watch porn on the internet then hell lets do the real thing!

If I'd known computer science was going to be like this, I'd never have given up being a rock 'n' roll star. -- G. Hirst