On July 2, 2019 the unthinkable happens for many Internet customers in the Charleston metro area. Century Link reports that a fiber optic cable servicing parts of the southeastern United States was damaged. This affected local Internet Service Providers (ISP), WOW, Comcast, and Verizon. Customers were out of service for up to 12 hours.
It is important for businesses to protect themselves from significant Internet downtime. The obvious
answer is to have a backup service to the primary. Afterall, that is what the ISPs do and it is called redundancy. We have a customer who understands this concept, has two local ISPs in place, but both were affected by the fiber cut.
The world wide web has miles and miles of fiber lines interconnecting networks. Each ISP sells the last mile of service to customers configured by its own backbone network with redundancy. Redundancy is basically a backup plan in the event of problems within the primary route. The local ISP networks connect to world wide web through a peering process. This process allows sharing or exchanging of Internet traffic between networks, so multiple providers use the same pathway of fibers.
The end user or customer has no idea who shares processes or each ISP’s configuration for redundancy. In this case, WOW, Comcast, and Verizon were using the same fiber optic cable provided by Century Link to service the Charleston area. It seems that this fiber pathway was also part of the ISP’s backup plan. WOW indicated it was unable to find a way to reroute its Internet traffic to avoid the break. While Comcast said that customers would not experience a service outage if it was one of their own fiber cables that was cut. However, in this case Comcast didn’t own the fiber, so customers experienced a service outage.
Online interruptions happen daily and they go unnoticed until they affect you. The plan to have two ISP’s is great, but not fool proof. If your Internet service is not working properly, you can check the status at downdetector.com. You may learn that it isn’t your ISP with the problem, but rather technical issues with your favorite website.