Tech & The Web

Internet Outage A Wake-Up Call About Device Dependence

There’s nothing quite like an internet outage to remind people how much they rely on the web and their devices these days.

People in Charleston received a wake-up call Wednesday afternoon when it comes to wireless service.

Many AT&T customers lost internet and cell phone service when a fiber optic line was accidentally cut. We’ve since learned the line was cut by a road construction crew working in nearby St. George.

I don’t have AT&T for my wireless provider any longer, so I was fortunate. But it just as easily could have been my provider instead.

An accident like that, after all, could affect anyone and any carrier.

For a while, thanks to the day and age we live in, people immediately thought it was the start of some kind of Russian plot to shut down the flow of information. A look at some unofficial outage maps online showed large outages in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., along with outages that were, by comparison, much smaller in many other cities including Charlotte, Greenville, Wilmington and Savannah.

Even after the outage, which lasted a few hours, was resolved, the unofficial outage maps continue to show outages across major cities.

At the time of this writing, I’m seeing small outages in Charleston, Savannah, Atlanta, Montgomery, Raleigh, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville and Washington, D.C., just to name a few.

It’s worth noting these maps are considered “unofficial” because they aren’t from the cellular provider itself and rely instead on user complaints.

Still, it appears there are almost always outages reported in major cities. Given the number of construction projects underway at any given moment, along with individual cases of tower issues or general network problems, I’ve yet to see a time that such a map is completely without problems.

An cellular service and internet outage is a fact of life.

But it’s also a potential wake-up call.

There was a time when I laughed at the notion of the iPhone. Why would I want to do anything other than make calls with a cell phone?

Yeah, my opinion has since changed a great deal on that one. Our little smartphones can make life quite convenient, but the result of all of the convenience is that we’ve become addicted to the internet. That’s not always a bad thing…unless we lose that connection. Then we realize the extent of what we can’t do as quickly and we get stressed out about it.

That’s not to mention the safety issues involved: some people have long ago discarded landlines for cell phones, so their phone becomes their only way to communicate with friends and family elsewhere. When that link is gone, that could be a serious problem if it disappears at the wrong time.

Lifehack, despite their counts, came up with seven ways to solve internet addiction. Some of these may seem a bit extreme. Emily Morgan over at This Incandescent Life suggested five tips, and one of them stood out for me:

Habit #3: Go to a coffee shop without your laptop

When I go to a coffee shop or a restaurant, I rarely take my laptop, but I almost always take my iPad. I look for future blog post ideas and surf the web in general. (It’s nice to have companionship — even of the electronic variety — when you’re otherwise dining alone.)

It’s not that I couldn’t have a nice dinner or a relaxing cup of coffee without a device. It’s that I usually don’t choose to.

Maybe all of us need to make that choice a bit more often so the next internet outage — there’ll always be a “next” one sooner or later — doesn’t catch us so much off guard.

When did you last experience a major cellular and inernet outage? What did you do to deal with it?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 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.