Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

Summary: In the last few months, we've seen examples of how trivial it is for the Internet to be broken in Egypt and Libya. In Japan, though, despite earthquakes, tsunami, and potential nuclear reactor meltdowns, the Internet has kept streaming.

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TOPICS: Browser
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In the grand scheme of things, the fact that the Internet has, by and large, kept working in Japan despite earthquakes, tsunami, and potential nuclear reactor meltdowns, is very small. But perhaps it isn't really that minor when you consider that for hundreds of millions of people wanting to know if friends and family are well, a simple e-mail, instant-message, or even a Facebook update can spell the difference between hours or days of worry and the relief of at least knowing their loved ones' fate.

Unlike Egypt or Libya, where dictatorships found it all too easy to turn off the Internet, Japan's Internet has largely stayed up in the face of disaster.

This is a credit to Japan's robust Internet that has managed to keep running despite a 8.9 Richter scale earthquake and numerous powerful aftershocks, tidal waves, and all the havoc that such natural disaster play on a modern society's infrastructure.

As Jim Cowie, Chief Technology Officer of Renesys, an Internet business analysis company wrote in his blog, "It's clear that Internet connectivity has survived this event better than anyone would have expected. The engineers who built Japan's Internet created a dense web of domestic and international connectivity that is among the richest and most diverse on earth, as befits a critical gateway for global connectivity in and out of East Asia. At this point, it looks like their work may have allowed the Internet to do what it does best: route around catastrophic damage and keep the packets flowing, despite terrible chaos and uncertainty."

According to a VentureBeat report, Dave Karow, senior product manager for Keynote, an Internet performance testing company, said, "At a macro level, the Internet did what it's supposed to do. It didn't even blink."

To be more precise, according to the Internet logs of the Internet Multifeed company, a leading Japanese Internet company, Internet traffic at its Network Access Points (NAP) was down only 10% from its normal rates.

Not all of the Japanese Internet has kept going of course. Pacific Crossing, a major Internet cable company that connects Japan with the U.S., reports that two of its trans-Pacific cables "are currently out of service as a result of the Japanese earthquake. And, that, "The Japanese cable landing station in Ajigaura has been evacuated due to the tsunami on the east coast of Japan and currently information on restoration activities and timing is unavailable."

Even so, as Cowie reported, "Of roughly 6,000 Japanese network prefixes in the global routing table, only about 100 were temporarily withdrawn from service - and that number has actually decreased in the hours since the event. Other carriers around the region have reported congestion and drops in traffic due to follow-on effects of the quake, but most websites are up and operational, and the Internet is available to support critical communications."

In times such as this, we can only be grateful for what does work right, even as we feel sorrow over so much that has gone wrong.

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52 comments
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  • Bravo for the internet.

    Working exactly as designed.

    Fault tolerant.

    Survive catastrophes.

    And hopefully capable of surviving bureaucrats...
    jessepollard
    • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

      @jessepollard
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      epark732
  • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

    "Unlike Egypt or Libya, where dictatorships found it all too easy to turn off the Internet, Japan?s Internet has largely stayed up in the face of disaster."

    This particular comparison seems strange, because the two situations are not even really on the same sort of axis. The issue is not merely one of access, though no doubt the limited number of connections to Egypt and Libya made things easier, but of intention. The Internet is designed to route around problems... if those controlling the routing want it to do so. In Japan, the network providers were no doubt doing their best to keep the network up; in Egypt and Libya, they were intentionally keeping it down.
    gbyshenk
    • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

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      @gbyshenk
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    • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

      @gbyshenk
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  • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

    My son was able to contact a friend in Japan through facebook who then asked him if he could ring her parents in the UK as she had no phone line to tell them she was safe and on her way to higher ground. He did this actually before they had even heard there was an earthquake.
    sueinholland
  • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

    Perhaps someone can enlighten me. How is it that they can even get on Facebook/Internet considering there are power outages and no phone service? Don't most people receive their internet service through a phone line/cable line or cell phone? Doesn't that also take electricity? I would have thought that a disruption of the basic services would have also caused a lack of internet access. Just curious.
    dangle18
    • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

      @dangle18 ,
      Not to be a smarta$$, but there are ways of providing electricity that are "off-grid." Emergency generators, banks of solar cells, etc. You can buy solar chargers for cell phones/smart phones as well. Although the article doesn't go into detail, the basic design of the Internet as such that it is largely disaster-proof, with duplication on many levels to ensure the flow of data in the event of emergency. Because the WWW makes use of the Internet, it enjoys a measure of this disaster-proofing. As long as the physical components of a cell tower are intact - and assuming some form of backup power - the cell will continue to function.
      Bob63
    • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

      @dangle18
      I remember being amazed, 2-3 years ago. There was a bloke doing a solo trek to the South Pole who updated his blog everyday via his satellite phone. Can't remember how he got the power - wind-up generator? solar?

      I think it was Ranulf Fienes who said that the thing which had transformed exploration in his lifetime was the arrival of GPS - the satellite link could tell you where you were, and where you were trying to get to in a matter of a couple of minutes with a fairly high degree of accuracy. (It's probably better when they don't have to worry about changing one-way systems. I'll get my coat)
      pvsutton
  • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

    Working for Japan Telecom here in Tokyo. The situation here shows how resilient the Internet is indeed. Japan is a central point in the operation of the Internet with roughly 50 main-trunk telecom cables coming in from the East (China, Australia, and South Korea) and West (United States and Canda) underwater. We have received word that only four trunk lines are down and the switching system performed extremely well diverting traffic to backup trunk cables. We routed some of our services on Hakkaido through South Korea to avoid Miyagi Prefecture. We have sent crews to Northern Japan who are working to restore service to northern Japan, especially on the island of Hakkaido which has limited service at this time. We haven't been able to move crews into the Miyagi Prefecture area yet, but we are working our crews Northwards to the affected area as the Army Rescue Response officials allow.
    parselsc
  • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

    Sounds like a good example of how the internet is ressilient.
    parselsc
    • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

      @parselsc Why and how the Internet in Japan is up and functioning keeping the communications alive and open? The only answer I could find is HONESTY and DEDICATION is the basis of this happening . <a href="http://www.sanfrancisco-weddingphotographers.com">wedding photographers san francisco</a>
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      • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

        @samjenko Incredibly resilient considering the battering Japan took at the hands of that earthquake. I'm honestly not sure how it took that damage, but they got it up and running very quickly. <a href="http://vesselsinkvanities.net/">vessel sink vanities</a> | <a href="http://www.largewallmirrorsite.com/">large wall mirrors</a> | <a href="http://www.lanereclinerchairs.com">lane recliner chairs</a>
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      We haven't been able to move crews into the Miyagi Prefecture area yet, but we are working our crews Northwards to the affected area as the Army Rescue Response officials allow. <a rel="follow" href="http://www.web-designer.com.sg/">Web Designer</a> | <a rel="follow" href="http://www.top3.com.sg/webdesign/">web designer</a> | <a rel="follow" href="http://www.top3.com.sg/">Seo Services</a> | <a rel="follow" href="http://www.ecommercewebsite.com.sg/">ecommerce</a> | <a rel="follow" href="www.payperclick.com.sg">Pay per click</a>|
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  • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

    Why and how the Internet in Japan is up and functioning keeping the communications alive and open? The only answer I could find is HONESTY and DEDICATION is the basis of this happening .........
    anma43
    • RE: Surviving Disaster: Japan's Internet

      @anma43 Because the WWW makes use of the Internet, it enjoys a measure of this disaster-proofing. As long as the physical components of a cell tower are intact - and assuming some form of backup power - the cell will continue to function. <a href="http://www.sanfrancisco-weddingphotographers.com">wedding photographers san francisco</a>
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