01 February, 2008

Taking the Internet Seriously

For the past few years, we have grown accustomed to the annual month of Internet service disruption. Once it was the tsunami, then the earthquake in Taiwan and then a ship's anchor near Alexandria, Egypt. I don't recall hearing of New York suffering from Internet disruption as a result of a submarine cable being damaged or severed. No, I don't recall the UK or anywhere in Europe facing this problem.

So, what is it? They never have extreme weather conditions? Do they bury their cables deep enough that an anchor won't reach it? Or did they happen to invest in enough cables with redundancy in mind?

No one in the Middle East seems to be taking this seriously enough. You would think the first time it happens, people would realize this and start investing money on it. No, sir! It's just the Internet. Who cares? A country like Egypt has 3 cables connecting it to the world. Imagine that! Two of them damaged and now they are telling their citizens to ration their Internet usage.

So, aside from the fact that businesses are being extorted by telco's for Internet services (we are paying 10 times what we would have paid anywhere in Europe or the US for hosting services), they are unable to provide reliable connectivity. It is obviously not their fault alone. It is the entire region that doesn't care.

With the region being drunk with cash and an insatiable appetite for investments, may I suggest this: More fiber-optic cables to ensure we NEVER EVER have such a problem again?

I know we are suffering some major losses as a result of the current situation. Our business model relies on the Internet. Perhaps this region (including the UAE) is not ready for Internet-based businesses just yet. Time to relocate and maybe come back in a decade or so?

17 comments:

Lirun said...

hey

im no techy - just a silly lawyer - but my understanding is that redundancy is about having a parallel system that kicks in when the main one fails.. i think what may be useful (but is often costly) is eliminating a single point of failure model.. ie in order for the system to go down and the 'redundant' system to kick in several points have to fail generally ensuring that there is enough time to rectify problems.. eliminating all big brother style ideas one is left with a cost issue.. and for the cost to budgeted i suppose the public has to place sufficient political weight on that issue..

the question i would have for the relevant countries would be: are your people demanding information acces? is your government facilitating/encouraging/ensuring that information flow is constant and if not why not? and if not what are you doing to make it happen?

DUBAI JAZZ said...

From the BBC website:

A third marine cable has been snapped, compounding global net woes caused by two broken lines on Wednesday.

What the f**k is going on?

Keefieboy said...

Astonishingly, a THIRD cable has been damaged in the Arabian Gulf, all but wiping India off the Internet map. There are, apparently, five new cables either under construction or in planning. One of them will come onstream midd-2008, another in 2009. More info here.

Kyle said...

Dubai Entrepreneur:

I doubt if the telecom provider(s) in this part of the world take the Internet and what the world-wide-web offers in terms of information and technological advancement seriously. To them, this is just another way of generating revenue while offering scraps and/or leftover(s) to its subscribers.

And I’m talking not just about the UAE but the whole region.

With these guys, it’s like, hey – the whole world is hooked to the net, let’s get on the bandwagon and make hay while the sun shines.

Well, there’s a difference with everybody else doing it. They do it because they’re serious and because they truly believe in the Internet and what it offers at the tip of your finger.

To sum up, all the talk here about technological advancement is hogwash. The people that run the show here wouldn’t know the first thing what it means to be actively wired without interruption with the rest of the world.

Oh, did I mention, that one needs to be free (of the proxy? One can't even touch that subject!

samuraisam said...

The reason the US has almost trouble-free internet is because it is mostly on a terrestrial level (i.e. phone lines/fibre networking from coast to coast)

The majority of content on the internet is based in the US; the links from the US to places like the EU are so numerous that if 1 dies it usually isn't a problem.

Even so, if the US did have an instantaneous cut-off from europe etc; what would American users miss? Name more than a few popular sites that are hosted outside the US.

We're lucky that Etisalat at least has some redundancy in their network; but to call their network 'redundant' is a bit of a stretch considering they've had to de-prioritized some aspects of internet traffic. I'm not sure it would financially possible for the UAE to have a fully redundant network considering there aren't that many internet users here.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

I don't understand this; the first two cables were damaged near the Egyptian coast. Then, couple of thousands miles away, and in a very short span of time, another cable gets cut in the Gulf. All are internet cables. Always the likely cause is the same: some ship's anchor.

I don't like this, it stinks…

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Keefieboy; I think the aforesaid cables under construction are meant to satisfy a growing demand, not for back up or redundancy.

Dubai Entrepreneur said...

lirun,

This has nothing to do with access to information for political/religious freedom. Who cares? The Internet should be no less important, if not far more important than telephone lines. We take land lines for granted. We more or less expect a certain level of service from our mobile phones. Why is this not provided when it comes to the Internet?

I am not talking about the 14 year old who needs to grab a torrent of his favorite rock band's album or the latest movie. It's not about us here in the UAE being able to access anywhere with an .il TLD. I don't care about that. This is political and is irrelevant to me at this point.

However, when I am running a business that relies on a geographically distributed workforce, then reliable Internet connectivity is not a desirable thing, it is an absolute necessity.

kyle,

I don't think the people calling the shots are as superficial as you may think. It is just a case of where people know they should do backups but don't bother. Then, when disaster strikes, it's too late. In our case here, the disasters have been in abundance.. it just becomes frustrating.

Ridiculous.

Kyle said...

Dubai Entrepreneur:

I don't think the people calling the shots are as superficial as you may think.

Given, they’re not, for now!

It is just a case of where people know they should do backups but don't bother. Then, when disaster strikes, it's too late. In our case here, the disasters have been in abundance.. it just becomes frustrating.

Here’s the catch!

Given the land advancements, Dubai and Abu-Dhabi are making, which means an ever-growing network/number of users. For these, they just can’t depend, anymore, on a few borrowed cables that get hauled into a state of disarray or are snapped by a fishing trawler’s net/anchor, every once in a while.

What they need to invest in is more than just a few back-up cables. Satellite is more like it. The TRA here ought to think about investing in sat links if they want to offer cutting edge technology that could be on par with the country’s image.

And I’m sure they can do it too, if they want to do it! After all, they have the resources. My monthly bill of a 512 connection, which runs more like dial-up, is proof of those resources. If this trend continues, I just might roll it back to 256 or even dial-up for that matter!

Lirun said...

my question had nothing to do with .il tlds..

about there are clearly issues with freedom of speech being balanced with cultural norms and you can confine it to a commercial matter all you like but thats just naive..

having said that i can understand your frustration..

DUBAI JAZZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DUBAI JAZZ said...

To answer the question posed by the above blogger: our legal status as expatriates here in the UAE is described as 'Temporary Workers'. Having said that, it's not clear to what extent one can push the boundaries of his/her demanding rights. Especially when it is known that great portions of expats don't enjoy those very rights back home. Eventually, it comes down to the individual level; one is happy with what he's got here, well and good. If he's not, he can either ask for whatever makes him/her happy, or he can ask for a cab to drop him at the airport.

Dubai Entrepreneur said...

lirun,

What is naive about not getting involved in political decisions that are obviously not doing us any good? I am not a citizen of the UAE. It is not my place to judge how they take political decisions.

However, what is happening here is a purely commercial affair. Infrastructure is being damaged and there are no backups available.

So, let us stick to the subject in hand here -- the lack of proper Internet infrastructure. If you want to start name calling, please do it elsewhere.

Dubai Entrepreneur said...

dubai jazz,

No, I am not a temporary worker. I came in here and invested some serious money based on promises made.

When I feel that I am not getting everything I have been promised, you bet your bottom dollar I'll be making myself heard.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Dubai Entrepreneur; I am not talking about you as an individual, I was replying to the reference to the "freedom of speech being balanced with cultural norms" comment of Lirun.

These things are usually collective, don't you think?

Lirun said...

dubai entrepreneur..

i dont know why its going down this trail..

but in any event.. i read this blog regularly and if i read correctly facebook has been blocked..

so i cant see why posing this issue isnt legitimate.. i wasnt seeking to be argumentative/discuss israel/insult anyone.. seriously.. but it wouldnt be the first time that access to information/sites would be discussed as an issue on this blog..

if i understand correctly what you are saying might be that you are unaware of any link between the two.. and thats fine by me.. :)

Lirun said...

dubai jazz

thanks for your perspective

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