Tuesday, December 05, 2006

When the Internet breaks

In the age of broadband, Blackberries, 3G and wireless, we have come to expect 24/7 online access all the time. But what happens when the Internet breaks?

Costa Rica and the rest of Central America are connected to the Internet through two fibre optic cables: Maya-1 and most importantly Arcos-1. The former runs from Puerto Lempira in Honduras to Punta Cana in the Domenican Republic (some maps here). Since last Sunday, the Arcos-1 cable has been down, which has meant that the Internet is either very slow, or not available at all.

This has made me think back on some digital divide issues and the fact that large part of the Internet relies on complex inter-connection agreements for the lease of bandwidth, and that when one of those connections is unavailable, the Internet suffers. If such an event takes place in developed countries with vast inter-connected fibre optical networks, the impact is considerably smaller. However, with countries that rely heavily on one or two main cables for connection, any shortages hit very hard indeed.

The national telecomms company ICE and RACSA, the monopolist Internet Service Provider in Costa Rica, have mentioned that they are likely to sue if the faults where caused by negligence.

By the way, this message reaches you thanks to some other cables, such as the Antilles Crossing.

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