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Our internet, 911, some bankings, ATM’s, some telephones were offline for around 7 hours today. Much of northern Az was affected including Prescott, Flagstaff, Cottonwood. The cause was intentional sabotage. A fiber optic cable that is inside a tunnel in far north Phoenix was cut, and that is the only connection. Just as a major wreck on I-17 can halt most vehicular traffic in northern and central Az, this halted most data traffic. The culprit has yet to be identified. Vandal? Criminal? Terrorist?

Here’s the latest news article I can find: http://news.yahoo.com/outage-halts-internet-cell-northern-arizona-230621745.html

To us it was a minor nuisance. We (thankfully) did not need to call 911. We did not need to use an ATM or bank services. I went to a couple of stores for small purchases but I had enough cash on hand. Our Verizon phones functioned, with 4G internet access and text messaging working.

Some thoughts on this outage:

1. The telecom system was designed for efficiency, not reliability. One fiber optic link is more efficient than 2, nice until that one is not in service for an extended time. That cable is a single point of failure. There is no backup, no redundancy – these are costly and thus inefficient.

2. It is amazingly easy for someone with bad intentions and a little knowledge to take down a major utility used by many people and businesses with a few hand tools.

3. This is what a systemic failure cascade looks like, in real time.