by CIO Staff

Accidental Fiber Cuts Take Down Internet Backbone

Nov 18, 20052 mins

Customers of major ISP (Internet service provider) Cogent Communications Inc. began having trouble with their Internet connections Thursday morning after the carrier experienced a bad-luck double whammy: accidents took down two of its fiber network connections in quick succession.

A fiber in New Orleans was sliced during reconstruction work in the city shortly before 8:30 a.m. there. Two hours later, a fiber in Washington, D.C., was damaged. Cumulatively, the accidents have severely crimped Cogent’s nationwide network availability, Cogent spokesman Jeff Henriksen confirmed. Cogent has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Repair crews were working midafternoon Thursday, and Cogent expects its network to be fixed by late afternoon, Henriksen said. The Washington, D.C., fiber was repaired around 3:30 p.m. ET, restoring connectivity on that line, he said.

Cogent’s network troubles come shortly after its customers suffered through another, unrelated outage. Last month, Cogent engaged in a fight with another major ISP, Level 3 Communications Inc., that led to temporary termination of the “peering” traffic-exchange agreement between the two Internet backbones. The companies’ customers endured three days of spotty network connectivity before Level 3 relented and restored its peering connection to Cogent.

Network managers began feeling the effects of Cogent’s fiber cuts almost immediately Thursday. The company’s network status Web site was unavailable for many and members of the North American Network Operators Group mailing list began swapping stories early in the day of dropped Cogent connections. Keynote Systems Inc.’s Internet Health Report monitoring system quickly picked up widespread Cogent problems and latency, which had begun to fade some by Thursday afternoon, according to Keynote’s tracking system.

Catastrophic fiber cuts are relatively rare, and two unrelated ones in one day is especially unusual. Henriksen said he couldn’t remember a similar event in Cogent’s 6-year history.

By Stacy Cowley, IDG News Service