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Government

Internet Probably Couldn't Handle a Flu Pandemic 341

Several readers including mikael and gclef noted a report from the General Accountability Office suggesting that it should be Homeland Security's job to make sure the nation's business can flow during a pandemic. In particular, if H1N1 sends workers and schoolchildren home in large numbers, GAO thinks it might be a good idea for ISPs to prioritize traffic (favoring commerce over games, say), to reduce network speeds, and possibly to shut down high-traffic Web sites. DHS retorts that not only isn't it their job to control the Internet in this way, but the GAO is naive to believe it's even possible: "An expectation of unlimited Internet access during a pandemic is not realistic." "[DHS] does not even have a plan to start work on the issue, the General Accountability Office said. But the Homeland Security Department accused the GAO of having unrealistic expectations of how the Internet could be managed if millions began to telework from home at the same time as bored or sick schoolchildren were playing online, sucking up valuable bandwidth. Experts have for years pointed to the potential problem of Internet access during a severe pandemic, which would be a unique kind of emergency. It would be global, affecting many areas at once, and would last for weeks or months... Many companies and government offices hope to keep operations going as much as possible with teleworking using the Internet. Among the many problems posed by this idea, however, is the issue of bandwidth..."

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