I got the following email from Chris Swanson, CEO of PureDriven. With his permission I am posting here. I wanted to help him spread the word and get feedback – but I also thought it might serve as a lesson or reminder to us all about the importance of redundancy…
On January 26, 2010 we faced a crisis that opened the eyes of businesses, government agencies, citizens, and visitors to our area. Around 11:00AM on Tuesday morning a broken steam pipe in East Duluth caused a fiber optic cable to melt. This resulted in loss of service for phone lines, wireless communications, and internet service to approximately 25,000 people. The outage spanned a distance of 150 miles from East Duluth north to the Canadian Border and occurred in St. Louis, Lake and Cook Counties.
Not only were phone calls unable to be placed for any long distance calling, but 911 service was down for a time, internet communications were down through the telecommunication companies, security monitoring systems were down and many other important and critical services down as well.
I have spoken with many of you about how this negatively impacted your business, employee productivity, and created a situation in which people did not have access to 911 service for some time. I have also heard from government officials that not only did this create a major inconvenience for getting very specific required task completed, but pointed out something that was not realized before; our telecommunications system proved to be extremely vulnerable. It should be pointed out that because Lake and Cook Counties are border counties with Canada this outage had national defense implications.
We are thankful that our trained emergency personnel were able to act quickly and assisted by taking turns at the fire stations and throughout the communities until service was restored almost 12 hours later.
Lake County Fiber Network
I have had many ask if the proposed Lake County Fiber Project would have experienced this type of outage and the simple answer is that the Lake County Fiber Network has been designed so that in the event a fiber gets cut, the traffic automatically reroutes itself. This outage is a clear example of why the Lake County Board of commissioners has been working on trying to strengthen the wireless and fiber communications in Lake County over the past year.
Because this had such a negative impact on our communities, I contacted Paul Bergman who is the vice-chair of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, and asked him what we could do to make sure this does not happen again. Paul has informed me he will be meeting with Congressman Oberstar within the next week to address this significant concern about the lack of redundancy built into our communications for our area, and what Congressman Oberstar can do to help solve this issue.
How you can help!
Commissioner Bergman has requested that you send him an email that explains how this financially or negatively impacted your business, and also to share and specific stories about the situation to make sure that Congressman Oberstar understands the grave situation that our area faced without the telecommunications.
Paul would like all community members to share their story so please feel free to forward this email to your business acquaintances, friends and neighbors. I know we are all very busy, but we cannot afford to let this happen again if we can avoid it so please send in your response to Paul as soon as possible.
Please email your responses to Paul Bergman at email@example.com
Thank you all for your time,
Driving Web Traffic to Boost Business
Christopher M. Swanson
Chief Executive Officer
Office: 218.834.3170 x122
Not a single Mediacom broadband subscriber on the North Shore – Commercial, Residential, or Enterprise (dedicated fiber) – was affected by this outage. Mediacom Phone customers in Two Harbors were not able to dial out or receive calls locally due to the LEC fiber being cut in Duluth. Long Distance calls were still being made and received during the time other service providers’ voice communications were down.
Ann – The Duluth steam plant says there was no broken steam pipe. It sounds like that would be a significant event with with a big cloud of steam. Qwest has backed off that story but no further explanations although the story hints it could have been melted fiber due to lack of “proper insulation” which Qwest had been warned about.
Very interesting to hear from both of you – thanks!
Zach – your comments speak to the need for more than one provider in any area! Then businesses with mission critical needs can build their own redundancy – and it leave a community with choices.
Peter – Thanks! The plot thickens, huh? It will be interesting to see what they are able to find out about the outage.
Located in central MN, not the NE area. But I feel the need for redundancy. I telecommute full time. I have one internet connection, and that goes down occasionally. Recently only for a few minutes, only a few times per month; but in the past for longer times and more frequently. These down times have significant impact on my ‘presence’ at work. I really need redundancy!! Not just one ISP with its own redundancy, but multiple ISPs so that if one goes down, there’s still another likely to be up and running.
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The network design of Mediacom and Qwest along the North Shore is not redundant. a single fiber line cut in Duluth would bring down Mediacom along the North shore as well.
The eye opener is that we can lose all service without redundancy and now that Mediacom is a telecommunications company I would hope they would look into a redundant network for the citizens, visitors, and business owners along the North shore.
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