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Rats 'Cripple' NZ Web Access 305

An anonymous reader writes "Drat! It was the rat! Telephone, mobile and Internet access in New Zealand was disrupted over four hours after rats were found gnawing through cables. More than 100,000 customers were affected and even the country's stock exchange came to a standstill. Powerless to take action against the rats, Telecom New Zealand is seeking compensation from the electricity company it says is responsible for knocking out another pipeline which eliminated backup services. Nothing like a backup plan."
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Rats 'Cripple' NZ Web Access

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  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:10PM (#12897153)
    Binary independent redundancy is often not enough these days. Like this incident shows, a single backup system is not enough. You need at least four systems to have a somewhat reliable system.
    • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:28PM (#12897274) Homepage Journal
      In some ways, I agree, but every bit of redundancy costs a lot, esp. if it involves laying more underwater cabling to Australia and Asia. Two lines are fine most of the time because the likelyhood of the second one going down before the first can be repaired is extremely small such that it is practically a fluke, like this.

      It happens occasionally, and there are excesses to try to fight against it, quad redundancy is quite a lot and probably overpaying by twice for something that almost never happens. Is it worth paying twice as much to add another "nine" to the uptime? I had some line problems myself, while frustrating, I just did other things instead.
      • Indeed, there are economic repercussions from extra redundancy. That's where the free market steps it. It will result in redundancy equilibrium: the amount of redundancy the marketplace is willing to financially bare. In this case, there is a possibility that their two lines were not enough, and the redundancy equilibrium may now shift to three lines as a result of this systemic failure.
      • Is it worth paying twice as much to add another "nine" to the uptime?

        When it keeps your stock exchange running? Sure.

        I know latency is an issue - but why not use satellites for your nth redundant connection?
        • Is it worth paying twice as much to add another "nine" to the uptime?
          When it keeps your stock exchange running? Sure.

          The stock exchange can place the blame on nobody but themselves. They have NO redundancy. A single connection provider, through a single firewall. They're not even peering at one of the peering points, unlike the National Library who were able to get a connection through Telstra Clear (with whom they had no previous relationship) up and running long before the fault was resolved.

    • I keep telling this to my fiance. I need at least four prostitutes to back her up. I don't know what bothers her more, the idea of being 'backed up' or being 'redundant'.

      • I keep telling this to my fiance. I need at least four prostitutes to back her up. I don't know what bothers her more, the idea of being 'backed up' or being 'redundant'.

        Why would you need four male prostitutes? You really don't have to resort to paying male whores to pleasure your woman. There are drugs out there, called penis drugs, that will make your erections actually erect. They might just cost less than these four male prostitutes you have hired (unless you got really cheap ones).
    • That depends entirely on the reliability of the individual systems that make up your redundant system. A binary-backup system can be as or more reliable than a quad system, if the individual components of the binary system are more reliable than the quad system.

      Having a quad backup adds a huge amount of cost, both in terms of buying the extra components, and in terms of the additional complexity involved in switching from one backup to the next. In fact, the more complex switching system can actually *decre

    • Either that or a rat free [gov.ab.ca] government policty [gov.ab.ca].

      Leave it to a bunch of red-necks to come up with a poster that says "Kill Rats at Sight!"

      btw try the "rat quizes." My favorite question and answer is:

      9. Why do we control rats?
      a) because they are ugly
      b) because they spread disease
      c) because they taste bad

      Heh.

      btw you can mod me off-topic. But if new-zealanders were a bunch of oil happy gun toting beer drinking rat haters they'd never have lost their precious precious pornography.

      Also
  • Secret Plan (Score:5, Funny)

    by Adrilla ( 830520 ) * on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:11PM (#12897159) Homepage
    The real story is that the RIAA paid these rats to take down the lines, and if they have to take out some phone services to cut down on piracy, then so be it. Those sneaky sunsabitches, I'm watchin you RIAA/MPAA.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:12PM (#12897163)
    And that's nothing like a backup plan...

    Plans? We don't need no stinking plans!
  • Rats (Score:5, Informative)

    by Al Mutasim ( 831844 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:12PM (#12897165)
    This must hit a special nerve with New Zealanders, who are trying to eradicate rats wherever possible. There are three types of wild rats in New Zealand, and none of them really belong there: black rats were introduced in the 1860's, brown rats were introduced on Captain Cook's ship in 1760's, and Kiore rats were introduced by Maori settlers in the 960's (plus or minus).
  • by katana ( 122232 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:13PM (#12897175) Homepage
    Of course they're suing the power company. Lawyers won't sue the rats because of professional courtesy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:13PM (#12897177)
    who ratted the out?
  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:13PM (#12897178) Homepage
    Yeah, blame the rats and the electric company for everyting. While you're at it, find the two-legged rats who couldn't bother to put in a redundant backup plan.
  • Liability (Score:3, Insightful)

    by debilo ( 612116 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:13PM (#12897179)
    Telecom New Zealand is seeking compensation from the electricity company it says is responsible for knocking out another pipeline which eliminated backup services.

    Surely the electricity company put clauses in the contract excluding them from liability for failures and damages caused by things outside of their control? I take it for granted that every big company offering services of any kind have clauses for those cases.
    • Re:Liability (Score:5, Informative)

      by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:25PM (#12897259)
      Surely the electricity company put clauses in the contract excluding them from liability for failures and damages caused by things outside of their control?
      The power company cut a cable while digging a hole. How is that outside their control?
  • Outage (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This happened on Monday. Today is Friday.

    It was a quiet day at work though :)
  • Monopoly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fgl ( 792403 ) <daniel@notforsale.co.nz> on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:15PM (#12897190) Homepage Journal
    A good example why a monopoly is vulnerable, I was @ work during the outage, & so didnt really notice so much, but I hear it was very disruptive.
    What are the odds of rats chewing through a main trunk cable on the same day a local power company cutting a second main trunk?
    • What are the odds of rats chewing through a main trunk cable on the same day a local power company cutting a second main trunk?

      Well, they must be pretty fucking good, considering it did just happen!
    • IIRC, one fault happened a day or so previously, and was being fixed when the second fault occurred.

      Personally, it smells like BS to me. I reckon somebody at Telecom fucked up, and they had to blame it on an "Act of God" to avoid enormous financial liability.
    • Re:Monopoly (Score:2, Funny)

      by bmgoau ( 801508 )
      And all the while we Australians sat and watched as the new zealand civilisation crumbled in the darkness

      Phase one of our takeover is complete....

      Now it is time for the invasion!

      Go rats, destroy the new zealanders, and there will be limitless piles of cheese for all!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:15PM (#12897194)
    Thank god the sheep didn't rise up against their internet access or they'd have been in real trouble.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:42PM (#12897347)
      Flamebait? C'mon! Sheep outnumber humans in New Zealand 11:1! If they ever rose up, they'd have a real problem on their hands.

      I've been to New Zealand. It's a beautiful country. The Southern Alps, the hot springs, the Maori culture. Seriously, I recommend everyone visits. Just keep an eye on the sheep, though, that's all I'm saying.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Actually, the number of sheep in NZ has dropped, there a more sheep per person in Australia - so they have dingo's and sheep to play with now.
  • Unpunished? (Score:5, Funny)

    by venicebeach ( 702856 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:15PM (#12897195) Homepage Journal
    But the rodents will go unpunished

    What?? How can they let them go unpunished? They need to at least go out and punish a few in a highly public manner to send the rest a message, kind of like when there is a shark attack and they go hunting for "the" shark that did it.... We can't let the rats get away with this!!

  • by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:18PM (#12897220)
    So Telecom is seeking compenstaion for fixing this. Fair enough you might say? The irony here is that Telecom has publicly stated they will not be paying *other* businesses for their losses due to the network going down.

    To put this in perspective, much of the countrys EFTPOS system went down. Much of the countrys mobile network went down. Much of the countrys DSL network went down. That means, NO electronic sales transactions, NO websites, NO email, NO mobile calls. LOTS of lost productivity and sales here.

    Even the friggin stock exchange went down - the 2nd time in a few weeks due to a Telecom fault! No wonder they don't want to compensate people - even Telecom doesn't have enough money for this.
    • Demanding compensation from Telecom would be pointless. Suppose they do pay out to those who were affected. Do you know what happens the next month? Their service rates skyrocket to recoup the money they lost during the payouts. In the end, those who received such compensation would likely pay it back two or three times over.
    • Just to explain this for people not familiar with NZ's financial system, we're heavily electronic. The vast majority of retail purchases, even if they're only a few dollars, are conducted by electronic transaction not with cash - Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale.
      All the EFTPOS transaction processing is done in Auckland, so everyone south of the cut - about half the population - was isolated from the engine room of retail sales.

      To compound the matter, bank ATM networks are all run from Aucklan

  • by Anonymous Coward
    A dingo ate their cable.
  • Tell the Kiwis to make sure to pay him after he lures away the rats, or he'll take their kids too.
  • by ArmorFiend ( 151674 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:22PM (#12897232) Homepage Journal
    Any other Puerto Rico [funagain.com] players in the house thinking "man, and I thought having my 3 tobacco eaten by rats was bad, but internet, oh yeah".
    • As an avid Puerto Rico player, I have to say that "No, I didn't think that at all"... where do rats come into Puerto Rico? Are you referring to goods spoilage after a captain round? I'd always put that down to oxidation/rotting, but I guess rats would do it too...
      • We play them as rats, then you can make fun squeaking noises as they carry off your precious goods to the supply. We like it so much, that the squeaking noises are a mandatory house rule here.
  • Nothing but sympathy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gleenie ( 412916 ) *
    I work for their competitor. Most people in operations here had nothing but sympathy - that kind of coincidence is nothing short of one in a million.

    And it just goes to show: Murphy rules, stuff breaks. At least in this country most people are willing to accept that...

    • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:56PM (#12897438) Homepage Journal
      I call bullshit, I'm weeping croc tears here - it's now happened twice now in the past 6 months for me (in Dunedin), previous one was a backhoe someone put thru the fiber north of here, you may have redundancy where you live but Telecom here is always one accident away from me not being able work at any time. Given the way they are making money hand over fist from their monopoly you'd think they'd spend some money on infrastructure (I can call Auckland from my US Vonage account for 1/3 what it costs to use my telecom phone - the town is plastered with fliers for 1c/min calls to China, why not Auckland?)

      • previous one was a backhoe someone put thru the fiber north of here

        Most underground industrial cable installations I've seen during construction projects (YMMV) have a layer of concrete poured over top. After it dries, it is painted red so that the future backhoe operator knows that he's approaching cable (whether power or signal).
    • One in a million? So telecom says. But you're talking about a loop going around the whole North Island. That's a lot of cable. At any point in the loop it is subject to being dug up, eaten by rats, or affected by an equipment malfunction. The odds of any of those are, what?, once every 30 days. You probably never notice any single outage because of the redundancy. But the odds of a dual failure, hence are 1/30days*1/30=1/900days=1/2.4 years. Hardly one in a million. For it to be that there would be

      • Remember their "Five nines of reliability on our core network" ads?
        Well, someone did the maths, and a four-hour outage means they're not due to have a core network failure for over another half century. Somehow I can't quite see it.
  • is a cat named Bugsy. Them cats can be nasty to rats, but especially cats named Bugsy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:43PM (#12897352)
    http://computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/NL/FC31E734EFD D0739CC2570290016D8F1 [computerworld.co.nz]

    Telecom is an American owned company.

    The local loop they use to fleece NZ residents who use their sub-standard "broadband" (Telecom once tried to market 128k plans as broadband..) is in fact publically owned. As the NZ Commerce Commision has no balls Telecom remains in control of this and thus continue to be a greedy monopoly.

    The above article should remove any doubt of this.
  • by Almost-Retired ( 637760 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:46PM (#12897379) Homepage
    being the absolute best at finding cables, beating any other method by at least 2 orders of magnitude.

    Like the most recent joke says "when lost, bury a short piece of cat5, then ask the backhoe operator the way home".

    He will come and find the cat5, it would be a violation of Murphy's Law to do otherwise.

    --
    Cheers, Gene
    "There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty:
    soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please use in that order."
    -Ed Howdershelt (Author)
  • by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @11:49PM (#12897402)
    I run all of my data over cat5 cables, and I can rely on them ALWAYS to keep the rats away.
  • I *knew* we shouldn't have used Room 101 for the server room!
  • NIMH (Score:4, Funny)

    by sremick ( 91371 ) on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:17AM (#12897546)
    Damn... tapping into the farmer's electricity wasn't enough. Now those smart bastards want high-speed internet access.

  • Ben (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:20AM (#12897566)
    Ben, the two of us need look no more
    We both found what we were looking for
    With a friend to call my own
    I'll never be alone
    And you my friend will see
    You've got a friend in me
    (You've got a friend in me)

    Ben, you're always running here and there
    (Here and there)
    You feel you're not wanted anywhere
    (Anywhere)
    If you ever look behind
    And don't like what you find
    There's something you should know
    You've got a place to go
    (You've got a place to go)

    I used to say, "I" and "me"
    Now it's "us", now it's "we"
    (I used to say, "I" and "me")
    (Now it's "us", now it's "we")

    Ben, most people would turn you away
    I don't listen to a word they say
    They don't see you as I do
    I wish they would try to
    I'm sure they'd think again
    If they had a friend like Ben
    (A friend)
    Like Ben
    (Like Ben)
    Like Ben

  • We should definately try these of the planet. I have too many bad run ins and they cost me a lot of money in damage.
  • by ikekrull ( 59661 ) on Friday June 24, 2005 @12:29AM (#12897618) Homepage
    The Internet was designed to survive a nuclear attack, but as implemented by the greedy idiots in control of Telecom and TelstraClear, the internet in New Zealand can't even withstand an assault by frickin rat and some clown with a power tool.

    Its really embarrassing, and sad, that these corporations' policies effectively deny the public in New Zealand a robust network infrastructure - Telecom and TelstraClear purposely depeered from various internet exchanges through which they could have easily redirected traffic during this outage, rendering it a non-event, because they can't stand the idea that people might run VOIP systems, cutting into their monopoly profits.

    Its just really pathetic that their action has resulted in the biggest network outage
    that I can remember, and instead of realising they probably should work with other network providers to ensure the internet in New Zealand is resistant to this type of 'attack' they just want to blame the power company.

    Telecom, you suck.

    • What a troll. Please mod the parent post a troll.

      ...Telecom and TelstraClear purposely depeered from various internet exchanges through which they could have easily redirected traffic during this outage,...

      The ISPs Telecom and TelstraClear previously peered with all had their Auckland-Wellington routes on either Telecom or TelstraClear. No other ISPs, as far as I know, have their own cable linking Wellington and Auckland. So Even if Telecom was peered with other ISPs they would still have overloaded so

      • No other ISPs, as far as I know, have their own cable linking Wellington and Auckland.

        You've neglected to consider BCL [bclnz.co.nz], who have 4x 155mbps DMR up and down the two islands. That's easily enough capacity to handle all of NZ's Intraweb south of Auckland at this point in time. Since they're a State Owned Enterprise, they can't exactly tell Telecom to fuck off if Telecom comes to them asking for redundant capacity.

        Even if Telecom was peered with other ISPs they would still have overloaded so much traffic on
  • Fibre optic cables are relatively expensive, say $60k/km rural & rising to up to >$1m/km downtown, so beyond two diverse cables is usually justifiable only where the traffic is very large (hint- not NZ), or where geography favours it (think a mesh of cities).

    The availability with two cables can be 5 9s. Overall availability depends on how risk there is (most likely risk - construction near the cable e.g. new housing estates), and how fast the operations is fixing faults. Fixing a fault may take 3
  • Last year about this time over half of the Texas coastal bend lost service when a branch of the SS7 network got chopped. Cells, 'net backbones, CC validators, and paging services. Come to find out that a contractor screwed up on misjudging the lay of the "do not dig" marks laid out by MCI..

    Feh!

    The boss said "dig there".

    The foreman said "dig there"

    The backhoe driver dug there...

    Three hours later the 5oclock news came rolling around with the contractors mugs plastered on the screens with the reporters wa
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Years ago, my parents called me because the power to half of their house went dead.

    I checked the breaker and it was fine, and power was also leaving it.

    So I started tracing the wiring from the Garage back the the Main circuit Panel on the other side of the house.

    Up into the attic I went, still finding no power in the 08 gauge feeder cable, until I got to the outside wall just above the mains panel.

    At this point I was truly surprised, because somewhere inside that 36 inches of wall, there just had to

  • bloody cabling is so crappy here i cant get dsl
    serves em right
    go rats- umm thats the furry ones i mean not the 2 legged ones :)
  • The French (Score:4, Funny)

    by Aussie ( 10167 ) on Friday June 24, 2005 @02:32AM (#12898097) Journal
    It was French rats, with scuba gear.
  • by chris_sawtell ( 10326 ) on Friday June 24, 2005 @04:06AM (#12898353) Journal
    ... total and absolute write off, particularly for small countries.

    What all the published articles fail to mention is that there is a third fibre running from one end of the country to the other. It is owned by Telstra, the competition. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that Telstra and Telecom have such a level of psychotic hatred for one another, that they cannot talk to each other except in a Court room. Thus the very idea of setting up the routers so that all three of the fibres are shared is such an anathema that it just won't happen without Government regulation and intervention. Needless to say the Government is essentially a bunch of ignorent wimps who can no more understand the technicalities of the situation than fly. So it won't happen and we will have to suffer the consequencies of serious telecom infrastructure failure from time to time.

    It's time for the little peoples of the world to take back ownership of their infrastructures by whatever means necessary. Fighting talk may be, but many of us in the rest of the world are sick of being fleeced by the avaricious in the powerful countries. Oh shit! - I forgot - big countries make up excuses to invade little ones so they can steal their natural resources.

  • This sounds very familiar to when in 1998, all four major mains electricity power trunk cables failed [bbc.co.uk] to their major city, Auckland, for five weeks.

    There seems to be something about the New Zealand psyche that just doesn't understand the concept of separate routing and protection of cables.

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