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The Internet

A Hole In the Net, Down Under 192

cjm_in_oz writes: "Since 4pm yesterday, Australia's leading ISP has lost 60% of its bandwidth due to either an earthquake, or as is more likely, a ship's anchor. Read more here ." Most of the entire continent's bandwidth, you see, courses through a particular manhole ... sheesh. This sure sounds like an argument for more and more fiber, along different courses.
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A Hole In the Net, Down Under

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  • by imac.usr ( 58845 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:26PM (#610793) Homepage
    from the article:

    "...circumstantial evidence suggests this species is a member of the DSL community..."

    Mmmmm, high-bandwidth sharks...

  • I've worked out why I thought so...

    ( from http://www.aarnet.edu.a u/c orporate/history/sinclair.html [aarnet.edu.au] )

    Geoff Huston, the first manager of AARNet...

    After early ISPs like Connect, Western Australia's Dialix and the now-defunct RUNX in Sydney set up, and browsers and the Web kicked in to keep bandwith use growing. Telstra eventually bought out the backbone in 1995, leaving AARNet with its original universities and CSIRO.

    Huston, who is now Telstra's manger of data networks...


    See, they did have something nefarious happen there :)
  • Telstra has several million enemies. Their marketing division try to spin things a bit tho' - they refer to them as customers.

    Things haven't changed from the days of Telecom Australia, have they? :/

    "Making it easy" for them to rip you off, is all they do -- and they drag their feet with all their anti-competitive acts (local loop access is the most recent example) -- and they get into bed with Rupert Murdoch (Foxtel) while still government-owned -- and I could go on...

    Anyway, no real point, I just wanted to vent some at Telstra :)
  • You buy underwate cable thats desigined to last underwater for 25 years, then you can forget about it for 25 years.

    Except when things like this happen, of course. :)

  • <Humor>This is just a cover story for the AU government's new censorship system. As they get the bugs worked out, the speed will come back, and they will claim to have "fixed" the cable....</Humor>
  • The captain of an American container ship off the coast of Indonesia is reported to have said "Whoops, my bad" and totally tried to play the whole thing off.
  • You heard wrong. Optus have their own backbone, and it's pretty good (not that I can remember figures or where to find them). Most Universities on the AARNET and NSWRNO are now on the Optus backbone. I have a dialup account on dingoblue, who use optus's backbone and modem racks, and hardly noticed anything wrong last night.
  • Most? Half at the most. And who'd use Telstra anyway, the company with almost monopolistic powers.

    But a lot of ISPs probably buy bandwidth from Telstra or their resellers (if they can't get better deals elsewhere).

    And don't Telstra administer AARNET? I seem to remember they took that over when connect.com.au went full-on commercial...
  • I havent ever looked at the numbers, but I would suspect that per km, its cheeper, in the long run, to run cable underwater.

    Obviously.

    As Telstra is already Australia's primary telco, they already have substantial land rights and holdings. That is, they already operate most of the telephone poles and undergrond lines.

  • Has anyone read the article? The run of fibre is called SEA-ME-WE 3.. See me wee.. Three? Is it just me, or is this a really amusing name for something at the bottom of the ocean?
  • Anyone having this problem firsthand?

    Things were a bit slow for me on the night it happened, but this was probably Telstra's router problems as well. (This is an SA ISP using Telstra's backbone). It's been fine since then... of course, I'm unsure of whether my ISP has back-up supply arrangements, they do seem to go for the multiple degrees of redundancy, belt&suspenders type approach, which is nice :)
  • The vulnerability and high cost of cables is one reason the infosphere wants to be in orbit [geocities.com]. Hardening satellites against nuclear electromagnetic pulse attacks has, however, been inadequately addressed outside of military satellites. The bulk of the hardening can occur with a relatively light-weight faraday cage enclosure so it shouldn't add too much to the mass budget of the satellite.
  • Its amazing that such a fine example of fault-tolerent design can become so weak that a backhoe, anchor, or small localized earthquake can successfully disable so much capacity!

    It cost big heap money to lay cables across big, deep oceans. Who's going to lay more than they can afford to? :)
  • Nor are redundant trans-pacific lines trivial :)

    Hell, it's a freaking 13/14h flight from Sydney to LA or ~12 from Aukland to LA (which is odd as it's ~3h from Sydney to Aukland and they're on a similar latitude).

    Bill - aka taniwha
    --

  • well, in the land where women blow and men plunder...

    Bill - aka taniwha
    --

  • A lot of people are saying that yes, Telstra has ONLY lost 60% of their international connectivity.

    Let's put it into perspective.

    Telstra currently have 980Mbps of international connectivity. They have lost their largest link, 622Mbps worth, so they need to route around the problem.

    It's not that simple.

    The moment the link died, it wrecked havoc with BGP routes everywhere. I couldn't get outside my ISPs own network (optus) to Telstra for around one and a half hours. Yes, true, other ISPs here also have int'l bandwidth, but it hardly compares to the near gigabit that Telstra have.

    Any southern-cross delivered bandwidth has yet to be utilized since customers (i.e. the ISPs) are either waiting for their connection or are still playing around with the configuration (read: playing Quake III with sub-150msec latency before the cable is loaded). Optus/CW, MCI and NZ Telecom are *shareholders* basically. They still have to purchase their own bandwidth (and line their pockets with money after a while). Telstra has got Southern Cross cable capacity too but just like the smaller ISPs who might only have a few megabits, they don't *own* the cable.

    Thankfully, I'm on the optus@home cable modem service so I don't need to touch Telstra int'l bandwidth but connectivity to local sites is still erratic.

    Now, stop slashdotting our link -
    11 FastEthernet0-0-0.pad18.Sydney.telstra.net (139.130.249.239) * 376/383/401 (6.78) ms 9/10 pkts (10% loss)
    12 * * * * * 0/5 pkts (100% loss)
    13 * * * * * 0/5 pkts (100% loss)

    -tsg
  • by dustpuppy ( 5260 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:27PM (#610810) Homepage
    Just to clarify the point, the cable that has been cut has resulted in a 60% loss in capacity for Telstra. Telstra happens to be the biggest provider of Internet access for Australia, but it is not the only provider, there are others, eg Optus. So while Telstra customers are experiencing slow Internet access, us people on Optus are experiencing no such delays.

    And a couple of additional bits of information:

    • Telstra doesn't have any connection to the new fat pipe to the US - Optus does.
    • Telstra has restored capacity to approximately 75% by rerouting traffic through satellites

  • First their bandwidth gets shopped, now we /. the continent. Sooner or later those aussies are gonna get ticked...
  • http://www.theage.com.au/frontpage/20001120/A64936 -2000Nov20.html sez:

    The cause of the damage, which occurred approximately 100km from Singapore on the ocean floor, could not be confirmed. Possible causes include a ship's anchor or minor earthquake.

    Now at last the truth can be told.

    http://tbtf.com/pics/subhoe.jpg
    _______________________________________________
    Keith Dawson
    Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.

  • That story was somewhat misleading. That connection is 50% owned by New Zealand's largest ISP Xtra, with the Aussies owning 40% and MSI WorldCom in the US getting the other 10%. I'm getting to a point - trust me =)

    With the ownership like that, the bandwidth is also spread something like that, and the owners of each particular portion are able to sell it to whoever wants it. So my guess for the slowdown, is that the Aussie ISP is not the 40% owner and hence can't use the new Sothern Cross bandwidth.

  • I heard rumours NZ was ~3M and falling. I know it fell by 4 in July :)

    Bill - aka taniwha
    --

  • lol....almost made me wet my pants! however, I have a correction:
    Shipping is warned to avoid the slick as several ships have already gone down in the area....should read "Shipping is warned to avoid the slick as several ships have already been gone down on in the area, and are now sleeping somewhere offshore."


    Going on means going far
    Going far means returning
  • Umm Telstra is the ISP which carries most of the continents traffic ...

    Do they carry more than 83% of the traffic? Well, did they, before their cable received an unauthorized vasectomy?

    0.83 * 0.60 = 0.498

    I'm picky.


    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • ...but 60% of total bandwidth available to the ISP called Telstra. Their backup line was flooded and 1 in 3 requests where lost. "Other ISPs and networks such as Optus were uncongested." It is very intresting that this same line connects so many distant contries (Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Germany, UK and the USA). I was under the impression that connections are made between contries, and then those contries in turn connect to others. I find it very interesting that so many contries are all on one pipe! ARPANET was originally supposed to be 'multi-node-failure-tolerent' so that many whole-cities could be destroyed (atomic strike or whatnot) with the system continiously delivering packets successfully (unless the destination is the one destroyed!) by re-routing around failures. Its amazing that such a fine example of fault-tolerent design can become so weak that a backhoe, anchor, or small localized earthquake can successfully disable so much capacity!
  • Here's another link, which provides a slightly less technical... erm... 'explanation'.

    With cartoon.

    http://obaba.shafted.com.au/ [shafted.com.au]

  • Wow, that's not bad, it was only a few years ago when Optus was the new player on the market and the courts ruled that Telstra had to let them use their lines and hardware, great to see them doing stuff on their own, even though theyre a bunch of pricks...
  • Funny retort (though not timely!).

    Hey, that's the requirement of one of our customers. So be it. Obviously, we don't recommend it but...it's their call.

    Hence, "experienced developers"...some who've dealt with obscene constraints and succeeded.
  • they will put connections into apartment blocks.

    assuming you live on the east coast. i'm in adelaide, i have a foxtel cable socket in my wall, but there ain't no way they'll sell me net access through it.

    why? because optus stopped their cable rollout when they ran out of money. stupid, stupid telstra... if this were a true competitive regime, i'd be able to get access over 33.6Kbps (I have a 56k modem that doesn't work, phone line is too bad).
  • Lets not jump to any conspiracy theory!

    The link that is damaged goes into the opposite direction (South East Asia, Middle East and then Europe). The new Southern Cross Cable that came in operation last week goes to the USA.
  • "Canberra Technology" - 139,000
  • The same queen who heartlessly wrings the necks of pheasants, no less! http://mo re. abcnews.go.com/sections/world/dailynews/britain001 120.html [go.com].
  • Considering Sydny is possibly bigger than Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Darwin combined and Melbourne isn't too far behind (I don't know the exact pops, but I would guess at ~6-7M for Sydney and Melbourne, ~2M for Brisbane and less than 1M each for the rest), I would say that Perth would have the higher tech density. Even if Perth is 1.5M, it would then have similar tech density to Sydney.

    Disclaimer: sure, I lived in Australia for 7 years (in Queensland :/, bloody banana benders (my mom's a cockroach (dad and I are Canadian));), but that was 6 years ago (in NZ during that time) and now I'm in Canada, so my grasp of .au stats is way rusty.

    Bill - aka taniwha
    --

  • What happened to that big, redundant connection that we were all bantering about a few days past?

    ----
  • Not a bad question, and I'll take a shot at it.

    Firstly, it's a whole hell of a lot easier (though still a bit of a pain) to lay terrestrial cable. Example: Qwest [qwest.com] just slapped a plow on a train car and furrowed trenches along rail lines all around the US. Stuff in cable, backfill, and you're done (more or less). You can't really do that with submarine cable. You can also do end-run tricks with microwave and laser [astroterra.com] for cheap further expansion.
    Though the link was already posted, I'll post it again. It's a splendid article [wired.com] Neal Stephenson wrote for Wired, and if you want to hear more than you wanted about laying cable, read it.

    So what you've got is relatively cheap terrestrial links, but when you start talking trans-oceanic, then things get hairy, both in effort and money terms. So you only have a few outbound connections from the continent, which means one anchor/earthquake/curious competitor (read the article) and there goes your connectivity.

    Note that Arpanet was meant to protect the US military network in times of chaos (i.e. armageddon). It really isn't an issue that overseas connectivity is a somewhat fragile link, since in times of war, it's only the national network that matters.

    As for routing issues, well, there are all sorts of wack payment issues at the backbone level. At the top level, the paths that packets take are determined by business agreements rather than efficiency. So you'd have to get on the horn to your competition and beg and plead for assistance (banks do it; they loan each other money all the time and at pretty decent rates, although telcos might enjoy raping each other when asked for help). Also you may get into weird latency issues if you route US traffic over a cable destined for, say India and then somehow on to the US (maybe).

    Caveat: This could all be bullshit. Comments?

  • Do the Australian ISPs peer at all? Wouldn't this help a little?

    I mean, I've experienced the MAE West packet loss and such, but at least my packets could move on to other ISPs.

    Of course, the article was a little sketchey on details. Does anyone know?

  • SO that when one gets cut, the other takes over. The STM protocol happily can accomadate this.

    Then again, building redundant transcontinental lines are not a trivial thing....
  • Ekkkk.. that's not good.
    That's like there being a car wreck someplace in the U.S. and UUNet going down because of it. This reminds me though, of that article I read once, where the sharkes were eating the fiber optic cable, cause they liked the taste of the gel inside it.
    (sorry don't know where a link to the story is)

  • From the article:

    Other ISPs and networks such as Optus were uncongested.

    I use Optus, Australia's 2nd biggest telecommunications company. I have no problems. I also don't like Telstra all that much, so I'd be happy if this loses them some customers.

  • Most? Half at the most. And who'd use Telstra anyway, the company with almost monopolistic powers. Thanks to them, consumers get treated like shit (such as, ADSL isn't competitive for SOME reason... wouldn't be Telstra's control of the cables) and now they have their wonderful advertising campaign that they are so great to their customers now, and their staff are happy to help. HELLO. Their staff protested at their Annual General Meeting due to the constantly sliding working conditions, made worse by the fact they, the employee, are the ones that cop it from the public when they want someone to complain to.

    Fuck Telstra and avoid them like the plague. Your local calls are cheaper elsewhere, your STD calls are cheaper elsewhere, your mobile calls are cheaper elsewhere, your International calls are cheaper elsewhere, and your Internet access is not only cheaper elsewherethen their overpriced Big Pond, but is now faster, more stable and more reliable though a company like Optus with the new link.

    Xenex
    - Who has been totally Telstra free for over 15 months, and had loved it.

  • You can't build redundancy with a single cable. They shoulda ran two cables, one from like American Samoa. heh
  • So they get cut and then we /. them.

    Who is smarter: us or them?

    --
    Spelling by m-w.com [m-w.com].

  • Which brings me to the question. Why lay the cable from Floreat Beach which is in the Southwest, all the way to Singapore? Leaving the mainland from say, Exmouth would have saved about 1500 Km of that cable!
  • Somebody should check to make sure the captain of that ship doesn't own stock in MCI (one of the three companies who built the new 120 Gb pipeline)...
  • One day we'll develop a technology that transmits at those speeds but travels like nutrinos (I think thats the sub atomic particle Im thinking of...) that arent affected by earth's crust and links the continents that way... Of course we haven't thought of a way to do that yet, so I'll just sit here and dream about it. :)

  • When an ISP is operating under limited bandwidth, the LAST thing you want to do is POST A STORY ON SLASHDOT POINTING TO A WEB SERVER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PIPE, restricting said bandwidth even further. *sigh*
  • Im with Bigpond cable, and the service is slow. Usually crawling at around 3-8Kb/s. I have problems with real audio timing out. I just hope telstra gets their butt into gear and connects to the new one. Chances are they wont cause its owned by Optus, which they dislike intensely. Normally its Optus borrowing Telstras network, now it might be the reverse.
  • What am I missing here? The pipe we are discussing has sweet fanny adams to do with the USA. Check out the route [smw3.fcr.fr].
  • by bigmaddog ( 184845 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:35PM (#610842)
    Some drunk, old and likely insane freighter captain decides to drop anchor 100 miles out to sea and accidentally kicks half the world in the nuts. I guess even the little people still have some power... :D
    ----------
  • "they're over 100% times more expensive than other bandwidth providers" Does that mean it costs the same as the other providers?
  • hmmm... i'm tempted to ride over to floreat this afternoon and have look around for that manhole. maybe i'll find an off switch or a large 'please do not not press this button' button.
  • As far as I know, Telstra is not the largest ISP or even the largest wholesale provider in the country. Optus bandwidth is both larger and cheaper. I'm fairly sure that more ISPs get their bandwidth from Optus. I know mine does. Add to that, Optus now has the largest connection out of the country, the Southern Cross Cable from east coast to US.
  • Nice idea, but a few problems. Lets "replace" Iridium with your network. So you have a constellation in orbit at around 650K (source [sat-nd.com]). Lets put me in Perth and you in, oh, LA. That puts you around 14,000k away (as the turbojet assisted crow flies [source [indo.com]]). So the 1300K round trip hop is justified.

    But what if I'm in Auckland and you're in Wellington (both NZ)? Well, we're only 485km away, yet we'll have more than double the latency that a terrestrial system would have. A wireless solution is not sufficient (I think) for spanning gaps of hundreds of kilometers, so you will need to lay fiber somewhere. Also, wireless border hopping (in Europe, for example) would be a pain in the arse, since you'd have to obtain rights to the same frequency on both sides of the border, a bothersome proposition. And even if you go to laser, you still have latency in the transmission hardware being tacked on

    So you've got latency issues going to satellite. This isn't a new issue, and I might write it off if I gained the ability to read Slashdot on my yacht in the Mediterranean (what do you think I do during the summer?).

    However, there's one more issue: upgrades. You may have heard the term "dark fiber [whatis.com]" (or fibre, depending). Simply, when Joe's Telco decides to lay fiber, they lay a lot more than they need, since they can't just go back and lay more easily. There's this unused ("dark") fiber laying around that can have equipment hooked on to it to expand the network. And the network hardware can be upgraded at any time (optical switches [zdnet.com], anyone?). You can upgrade a satellite (such as Hubble), but it's not cheap. And in all probability, the network will not improve all that much over time (maybe better compression routines).

    So don't write off fiber/fibre entirely. Of course, a satellite AND fibre network would be ideal.

  • > You make Australia sound like some kind of backwater that's up there with the places they have more guns than food.

    You mean, like the USofA?
  • Isn't there some Larry Niven book about a future earth where network cable is all super-conducting and there is so much of it, all the heat is diffused from the equator to the poles and the ice caps melt?

    That would be cool.

  • > You make Australia sound like some kind of backwater that's up there with the places they have more guns than food.

    You mean, like the USofA?

    Probably not the whole of it.... I'm sure there's a few pacifists in southern California and Alaska. :)

    Now, if there wasn't some truth to the stereotype he's referring to, then why are you taking offense? Do you cling to the belief that you have a right to carry a gun in case the King of England walks in through your door? Do you think of proponents of gun control as left-wing extremists? Do you long for the day when it'll be legal for you to buy an IMI Uzi at the local gas station?

    Probably not. So why let it bother you?
  • At one point I thought that the Internet's whole reason for being was to provide(at USA's request) a system that could survive critical problems (eg.in the event of war), by dynamically rerouting etc. If that is so, why do we have these problems? Forgive me if I'm naive Mike
  • You are an idiot. The cable itself is far cheaper than the act of laying thousands of miles of it in the bottom of the ocean.

    Wrong! You see, those are not simple cables, not even just a bunch of expensive monomode fibers. Even the best fiber doesn't transmit a signal over several thousand kilometers. You need signal enhancers at regular intervals (like, every 50km or so), and those cost something on the order of a million bucks. So please don't call other people idiots when you have little clue yourself...

  • And you thought that cutting up this pipe was an accident...
  • Southern Cross is up, and working, but doesn't have many active customers on it yet. Customer connections were only lit up last week, and now should be in their testing phase.

    One interesting point is that the problems caused by the cut cable were nothing compared to the problems Telstra had on the night due to other factors. As this outage notice [telstra.net] states, they had routing loops form within their network when the cable went down.

    Also, an electricity substation supplying power to the main Telstra internet POP in Sydney exploded [abc.net.au] around the same time, cutting power to all of their routers. Power wasn't restored until the following morning.

    More here [smh.com.au], here [zdnet.com.au] and here [internettr...report.com] (check the graphs).

  • Informative?! Dear God, did the idiot moderator even click the link?
    --
    Obfuscated e-mail addresses won't stop sadistic 12-year-old ACs.
  • by ilovelinux ( 129476 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:41PM (#610857)
    I work for a medium size telco doing backbone work.

    I can just imagine what a pain in the ass this will be to fix!

    For those who are unfamiliar with SONET fiber technology:

    You have to understand that for most companies, (until just recently), SONET is set up in a dual ring configuration. This is somewhat analogous to FDDI in a Lan. There are generally 4 fibers between offices, 2 per cable, (transmit and recieve). If you get backhoe fade on one cable, the signal gets transferred to the other cable's transmit and recieve. To set up a star type topography has traditionally been cost prohibitive, and is not done too often.

    Although the internet is highly redundant on the IP level, most of continental and international traffic is jammed onto a few huge capacity strands of fiber to save money.

    One cable cut in a long haul situation can quite possibly be disastorous in many areas of the world. I imagine Australia, being an island in the middle of nowhere, (internet wise), can't have too many redundant links.

    Just a thought

  • That reminds me of a situation here in MN a few years back...

    Internet service was cut off for several days after a homeless guy was sleeping under a bridge...I beleive his blankets were covering some exposed electrical power equipment and a fire started. All the fiber lines nearby were melted (this is from memory, the story is probably off a bit). ALL the lines into MN at that time were through this area (maybe they still are?) so there was no net for a few days. If someone from MN remembers the exact story, post a reply :)

    I think the point is that a fair amount of the net is fragile in this manner. Remember, you only have to cut the line once over any distance to prevent it from working. Obvious yeah, but people seem to forget.
  • Has anoybody checked the possibility of a radioactive dinosaur tripping on the wire on its way to Darwin?
    __
  • Check out the latest stats on Oz's bandwidth via the Internet Traffic Report at this address [internettr...report.com]
  • Ocean conditions and prevailing currents prevent undersea cable from being layed in most areas of the ocean.

    You see, while daily tides don't seem too powerful to the average person, the stress imposed on a cable that is exposed to miles upon miles of oceanic currents will break even the strongest of cables. A similar situation was previously discussed here [slashdot.org]

    With respect to these conditions, Floreat Beach in Perth is the ideal area to lay cable. This coastline is sheltered from the impact of high energy swell by a series of submerged calcaranite barriers and offshore islands. As a result, low energy conditions prevail, especially in summer when incident wave heights are generally less than 0.5 m, giving the beaches a lake-like appearance.

    In addition, Perth is home to many major Australian dotcoms and ISP's. It is considered by many to be Australia's version of Silicon Valley in the US.

  • by pagley ( 225355 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:48PM (#610875)
    To expand on what was mentioned earlier about redundacy a bit...

    Redundancy in the telecom world takes on two basic forms - equipment redundancy and circuit redundancy.

    Equipment redundancy is pretty much what it says - redundant equipment in place with the same end service in mind. Should a processor in a fiber multiplexer die, fry, go up in smoke, whatever, the equipment fails over to the backup processor with little or no interruption of service. This is more or less a minimum standard in the telecom world.

    Then there is circuit redundancy, which takes two more basic forms, either over a single cable (with multiple fiber strands), or over multiple cables. Unfortunately, more often than not in more "rural" areas, this is usually multiple fiber redundancy within a single cable. Which covers almost all equipment failures involving the physical cable interface, but does nothing at all for when Joe-Backhoe-Operator digs without a locate and tears up 15 feet of cable without even noticing it. Which is the most common failure I've experienced.

    Even multiple cables isn't always the answer, especially if the physical routes aren't diverse enough. I can think of two instances, both in the upper midwest, where multiple cables in proximity (read - one or more conduits in a very small space) were damaged or destroyed, once by fire, and another by a vandal who knew where to find them.

    The ideal situation is for telephone companies to have two routes out to the "network" running in almost opposite directions. However, again, although this works well for switched voice calls, most of the time it doesn't work for "nailed up" point to point circuits, which still leaves those types of circuits, commonly used by ISP's where frame relay isn't available, in the cold when routes are destroyed. And, we all know how fragile frame relay can be, especially when Worldcom is at the helm - "Oh, let's just globally upgrade the software in our network without any phasing or large scale testing at all. Oh, yeah, and when it falls on it's nose, let's let it fester for a week or so before we get the network to re-converge."

    So, there you have it in a nutshell. Nothing is foolproof, especially if you don't own or control all of the network from point to point. But, I think most everyone would agree, there are very few times I've ever picked up the phone and not had dialtone. I think most people in the states would agree with that. Remember, the telephone network is the most complicated, expensive, diverse, available electronic network in the world. And although the phone companies are far from perfect, especially the former US West and Worldcom, when you think about it, it's really amazing how stable it is, and that it works as well as it does!

    Brad
  • I bet the cable-cut incident as occuring sometime around 19:14 PM Pacific time on Sunday, Nov 19.

    Why do I say that? Because I run a web service that criss-crosses between California and Australia (and Tasmania, for what it's worth). We have an n-Tier web application that is hosted, in tiers, both in AU and in CA. The customer's sites are hosted in AU but link to web app pages in CA. Then the web server connects via secured named pipe to a legacy application server back in AU. (Yes, the transaction pings and pongs from the US to AU multiple times before completion). This is usually extremely transparent to the user (you can bet were not running Flash animation over these links!). But beginning Sunday at 19:14 PM my time, the usual became excruciatingly unusual. That's when I began logging timeout errors.

    I don't know whether to be shocked at what effect one cut cable has caused, or to marvel that even with a severe blow to a continental backbone the Internet is routing around the damage, as designed.

    One thing for sure -- I'm glad I'm not running a leased-line application that requires me or my company to troubleshoot the network! How nice to completely off-load responibility for intercontinental networking to completely unrelated third parties. There's antother point to be made about the distribution of labor in this story...and the economies of scale... but I digress...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Australia=australian=aussie=ozzie=oz
  • I've never seen a guard at Floreat Beach guarding a man hole. But that said I've never seen anyone guarding any of Perth's telco infrastructure apart from telco facilities or exchanges.
  • Actually, about four years ago, I worked for SWBell. One of our projects was to lay several T3 lines bewteen California and Hawaii.

    "The transatlantic route is the most populated with cables and has also seen the greatest drop in the price of capacity. Last year, $250,000 would buy a T-1line between London and the USA. Five years ago, that is what it cost to lease a line for a year. Prices have not fallen as far in the Pacific, but will continue to drop worldwide"

    Found here [russophile.com]

  • I wonder what the bandwidth of that pipe is....
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @07:45PM (#610914) Homepage Journal

    How about c|net's story off of the ap: Qwest ordered to pay AT&T $350M [cnet.com] for repeatedly cutting a fiber-optic phone line.

  • .au bandwidth is rather expensive because of how few users there are and how much it costs to get a link

    building one link is expensive enough, but 2 when not needed is just not likely to happen, unless they need the bandwidth to sell it. because .au is probably a hard market to get into (upfront costs ++), its rather monopolistic.

    therefore, as the only company around, they don't really need to be uber reliable, only decent. from their point of view, redundancy is probably only a cost which they can slash... capitalism strikes again

  • by yobtah ( 16795 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:11PM (#610920)
    the available bandwidth will decrease even more as sites in Australia are Slashdotted by everyone checking this out.
  • by gunner800 ( 142959 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:12PM (#610922) Homepage
    Please read article before posting story.

    The damaged cable does not usually handle "Most of the entire continent's bandwidth...." It handle 60% of a particular company's bandwidth, which is very different.

    And this event does illustrate the need for more connections. The story also explains that there are more connections, including a new cable with 5x the bandwidth of the one damaged. Unfortunately, that new cable is owned by a different company which is not experience technical difficulties.


    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • Backhoes can be a problem, but we shouldn't always place the blame on the operator. While it is true that some heavy equipment operators are either drunk or on-something-else, many are excellent operators who take time and care with their work.

    My GF's brother-in-law owns and operates a backhoe, and I rode "shotgun" with him on it many times (one of these days I hope he can show me how to operate the thing). I can tell you that when digging, even knowing there is a pipe, cable, conduit, something - it it hard to tell the difference between it and everything else that is "down there". Unless you are operating in "virgin" soil, many times there will be plant roots, old runs, rebar, branches - you name it, and many times it looks just like what you are trying to avoid. A good operator will either have a spotter, or be looking carefully, and stop immediately after seeing something that even looks like a cable or pipe, get off the rig, and inspect the area. More often than not, it is nothing - but every once in a while it is something, then you have to back off, and hand dig around it.

    The biggest problem is when you are digging, and you don't spot the hazard - a boom on a backhoe can be moved quickly, or delicately - but even at it's most delicate, there is still a bit of inertia (hey, it's a big mass of steel, for cryin' out loud!) - which can still cause a break, if you don't catch it in time.

    I know there are dangerous operators out there - but the majority are good workers, doing a job you or I might not ever think about doing...

    I support the EFF [eff.org] - do you?
  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) <.robert.merkel. .at. .benambra.org.> on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:14PM (#610928) Homepage
    a large fraction of Australia's traffic is carried by Telstra, the partly government-owned telco, who aren't yet using that big, fat, redundant connection. Telstra customers (both direct and indirect as their ISP's use Telstra's backbone) were the ones affected.

    This made the newspapers (at least in a minor way) here, and believe me, there's a lot of unhappy people. I'd imagine that Telstra might well be leasing some space on that big, redundant connection in the not-too-distant future :)

  • Cable gets cut and power blows up. Obviously using the same computer technologies as Hollywood uses.
  • by vectus ( 193351 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:15PM (#610934)

    One seaworthy vessel; ten million dollars

    A solid steel anchor; two thousand dollars

    Whoring for karma with bad Mastercard ripoffs; priceless

    There are some things having a life can't get you. 87 Karma is one of them.

  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) <.robert.merkel. .at. .benambra.org.> on Monday November 20, 2000 @07:09PM (#610938) Homepage

    In Oz, as a Telstra customer last night, data rates to the US were down to a few hundred bytes per second (assuming you could successfully connect at all), and ping times were up to ~5000 msec. Thankfully, I didn't have any big up/downloads that needed doing. Things have improved today - ping times are back to normal and bandwidth is up to ~5-6 kilobytes per second (I'm on a cable modem).

    How is it for others in the region? All we've heard so far is Australian reports, but this outage will unfortunately be affecting people throughout Asia :(

  • Why don't you do a Google search for "Perth" and "Technology". Quite a few startups and ISP's are based out of or operate offices in Perth. Not to mention the Curtin University of Technology [curtin.edu.au] in Perth.
  • I remember not too long ago (back in 1994) that Australia had a single 2MBs connection to the internet. Think they have it bad now?

    Of course, that was back when people just used text email and used local usenet news servers.
  • by lpontiac ( 173839 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @07:14PM (#610944)
    Try not to be such a patronising twat. You make Australia sound like some kind of backwater that's up there with the places they have more guns than food.
    • Most of the entire continent's bandwidth, you see, courses through a particular manhole ... sheesh
    Read the article, and you'll see:

    • Other ISPs and networks such as Optus were uncongested.
    Yes, Timothy, we do have more than one ISP out here. And I believe Telstra carries a minority of traffic (given they're over 100% times more expensive than other bandwidth providers). Anyone that has someone like Optus or uuNet (my ISP has redundant links to both) as their upstream would not have been any more affected by this than your typical American (some Aussie sites may have been down).
  • >You are an idiot

    If a professor said that to me, I'd have his ass in the Dean's office pronto. Like, chill out. :-)

    >The cable itself is far cheaper than the act of laying thousands of miles of it

    I'd tend to agree, but what is the point of laying two cables side by side when anything strong enough to cut through one cable is likely going to cut through the the cable beside it?

    There's a way to implement redundancy, and that means some separate paths. Two cables going through the same spot only helps if you are VERY lucky. Two cables 100's of miles apart is much different. And if you start to lay cables miles apart from each other, you start to double the cost of the work (if you ask me...).
  • by hugg ( 22953 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @08:04PM (#610949)
    Can't you realize what's happening?! Look at the moon tonight! LOOK AT IT! Can't you see that the light reflected off its dark side is an indicator that an asteroid has hit Australia, and is emitting a fireball brighter than the sun? THIS COULD MEAN THE END oh wait that's a streetlamp outside, never mind.
  • As an American who lived in your beautiful country for ten years (and who now has dual citizenship), let me extend apologies for the less than gracious comments of some /.'ers. I would like to believe most would rephrase their comments with some reflection.

    (And to preempt any fatuous comments suggesting I return there, believe me, given half a chance, I would. Without hesitation. Not that the there's anything wrong living in the US, it's just that Australia is a great place to live. Perhaps even the greatest place to live. Oooops! I didn't mean to go all maudlin...)

  • by ectizen ( 128686 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:19PM (#610955)
    I thought I was having a flashback to when pr0n arraived at 2400 baud...

    --
  • Even assuming all Intersats will be in as high an orbit as Iridium, the round-trip latency due to distance would still be only about 5ms. With present day fiber systems, doing a 'ping' between two major cities like Chicago and New York City will give you round trip times that are several times that.

    As for the other issue, dark fiber is a lot more limited resource (and vulnerable to sabatage) than is line-of-sight wireless. Further, the cost of replacing an Intersat will start to approach the cost of replacing an optical switch as launch sevices exit their domination by governments and enter the industrial world. As I point out in "The First Inforb [geocities.com]" at some point the launch costs are low enough that office-environment information systems can be put into orbit by containing them within (unmanned) environmental controls. Industrially reasonable launch prices are below the $100/lb figure that is typical of current office environment information systems.

  • by Leghk ( 30302 ) on Monday November 20, 2000 @06:19PM (#610957)
    Only a week ago a competing company fired up a new link.. Now suddenly their only competition has their wire cut. Hmm. Sounds like a good way to acquire customers for that new expensive link, -- while permanently destroying your competition.

    Sounds like what they were talking about in Cryptonomicon, cable cutting wars. Easy to start, but nobody dares start them.
  • If this fiber links Australia to two other continents, then why isn't it fully looped? I mean, you run one cable from australia to continent a, then another cable to continent b. Hopefully, you are smart enough to run a cable from continent a to continent b, and you have a loop. Say you have OC192 running in this loop, then you have sub 50ms switching capacity and you can switch all traffic from the broken loop to a working loop.

    People cut stuff, they drive dump trucks through aerial fiber (hitting power lines as well), and other really stupid stuff. If you have an entire continent running on one link, then that link better be redundant and fully looped. These people have one to blame but themselves (people being the inet company).
  • As I originally posted here [slashdot.org], I wonder when there will be a big fat pipe going from western europe to east asia that does not depend on the USA.

    Routing through the mideast is a little dicey given the political instability. The infrastructure costs make a fat pipe via siberia a real pain. The point is simply redundancy, as well as opening up the net to other areas of the world. a fat pipe going through that part of the world would help this out tremendously.

    Now it seems that this point has been brought home in spades. (shudder)

  • 'STM Ring' is often used to describe fibre rings running the SDH protocol at layer 2 - it's SDH that provides the failover to the other direction.

    SDH is the European equivalent of SONET. STM-x is the European equivalent of OC-x, which is just a measure of bandwidth.
  • The cable itself is far cheaper than the act of laying thousands of miles of it in the bottom of the ocean. It would make a lot more sense to go ahead and lay a second cable at the same time as the first.

    Only if the aim is to lay several cables together, which also makes sense on land. However if the idea is to have redundancy against damage to the cable run you'd need different routes. Which involves more of the expensive bits...
  • 20 Gigabits per second, apparently. Your original post here [slashdot.org] seems to have been wide of the mark. Australia HAS had a fat pipe linking to Asia without going via the US. Not only that, but it was the countries biggest international pipe and accounted for the majority of our biggest telcos international traffic. It's been overtaken in size (considerably) by the new Southern Cross cable, but it's still there (when it's up).
  • If you put things on land then you have to worry about far more things that can screw it up. Like, for example, drunk backhoe drivers. Or drunk drivers deciding that that pole would be a good thing to hit.

    If you run into problems laying the cable then sorting them is rather more difficult, getting at a cable under a few km of water is not an easy task. Also you have problems of drunk sailors and dredger operators where the cable is in shallow water.
  • Well this has sort of flattened out now, and Australia is doing a lot better, but it's still interesting to note whats probably happened here.

    1. Earthquake/plate shift (and it seems like an earthquake/plate shift) has disrupted the cable between Jakarta and Singapore. Because of the way the cable is arranged, this will mean Jakarta and Australia are effectively getting zero bandwidth from Singapore. Earthquake/plate shift is highly suspected due to the recent (not long after the cable break) earthquake in Papua New Guinea. Telstra didn't allow for any real redundancy (by running dual cables seperated by a few hundred feet or more) in their cable run. One cable handles all the traffic, so a single break causes complete data loss. (Southern Cross uses a two cable system to allow redundancy in the case of a cable break).

    2. The night of the cable break, a power station in Paddington, a suburb just east of Sydney (NSW) burnt down, dropping 20,000+ homes and businesses into a blackout. Paddington is where Telstra routes most of it's eastern states traffic, and indeed all traffic destined to go through the previously existing pipes from Sydney goes through Paddington. A simple hiccup or loss of power caused by failing generators could have caused havoc. Such a scenario seems very likely given the problems that appeared on Telstra's network that night. Any sub-system that kicked in may have not been able to handle multiple failures dealing with traffic problems (eg: fibre to Singapore being down, which goes via Perth, Western Australia), causing more headaches.

    3. Due to floods, much (approximately one-third) of the NSW outback is under water, making any problems with cables running across this area difficult. Cables that might be under 6 feet of dirt are under an additional 12 feet of water making any repair hard. Microwave links running across this area could also suffer, due to power outages, or possibly tower foundations shifting and throwing communications out of whack.

    Anyway, things seem a lot better for Aussie internal traffic, and external traffic isn't TOO bad (apparently). Fortunately I'm with Optus Cable (who have their own link to the US) at home, and UEComm (One of the many companies who use Southern Cross) at work. *grin*

  • http://smw3.fcr.fr/SMW/SMWB2.htm

    Didn't anyone teach these guys in elementary school that water is blue and land is !blue? I spent ten minutes studing this map trying to parse out recognizable shapes before I realized that blue was land. I thought it was an extreme close up of Indonesia, and I kept wondering, "Why is Perth on the East coast of this landmass??"

    Silly me.

    -Chris
    ...More Powerful than Otto Preminger...

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