Tech & The Web

How Internet-Dependent Are We? An Outage Just Showed Us

A damaged fiber optic cable somewhere in North Carolina made one thing clear: we’re a lot more Internet-dependent than we’d care to admit.

If you’d have asked me prior to a widespread internet and cable outage, I’d have insisted that I’m not particularly internet-dependent.

I probably would not have said I could take it or leave it, but I would have said that losing the web for a few hours — even losing the web and cable for a few hours — wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Then, that’s what happened.

It turns out, as far as we can tell, that a third-party provider’s fiber optic cable was damaged somewhere in North Carolina. When it happens, it’s usually a contractor digging somewhere he or she shouldn’t have.

Regardless of the reason, many people in a wide swath of the nation, including Charleston (where I am), Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio; and Birmingham, Alabama; were suddenly without the web. In some cases, they lost most cable channels, too.

For those who cut the cord and didn’t have cable, all of those nifty streaming services like Netflix and Hulu weren’t options, either.

Depending on where you live, your phone’s cellular service might not have been strong enough to even get your email. (It’s probably likely that there was such an increased demand on cellular service that it clogged the system and slowed things like email.)

My cable service was able to deliver local channels. No extended cable.

Thanks to a damaged fiber optic line, the TV options before me suddenly reverted to about 1980. No email. No internet. No blogging. No social media.

Okay, fine. I’ll read something. But that book I’d purchased the other day hadn’t actually downloaded to my iPad, so even that was a problem.

I’m an introvert and a homebody. So most of the time, my free time is spent at home. Maybe that’s not the best idea. But under normal conditions, there’s plenty to do within my little world.

Except when there’s no internet.

We shouldn’t be so internet-dependent. But many of us are far more so than we’ve ever really taken the time to consider.

At the same time, it’s quite frightening that one cut to a fiber optic line can kill internet — and in some cases, cable and telephone service — for thousands of people from multiple companies. The next time my internet provider says something about having to raise prices because of their infrastructure, I’m going to remind them of this little episode. Clearly, they’re not depending on their own infrastructure: they’re depending on someone else’s. And that’s a problem!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.