Pondering Post-Hurricane Internet Outages

Pondering Post-Hurricane Internet Outages

The old saying in my home state of Texas is “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes. It’ll change.” Things took a turn for the worse on Monday and Tuesday, when Hurricane Beryl tore through the Gulf cost then Houston. At one point, over 2M locations (households or businesses) had no electricity. That number is still about 1.2M as I write this screed according to PowerOutage.us. One unexpected effect caused most Internet Service in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio to fail from about noon Tuesday until after 7PM that day. As a member of an affected household, it has me pondering post-hurricane Internet outages.

Fortunately, our 5G service stayed up and continued to provide Internet access. So I was able to limp along during the outage, using my iPhone 12 as a hotspot for minimal connectivity. Failing over from a nominal GbE link to something that delivers 5 MBps if we’re lucky stings, though.

If Pondering Post-Hurricane Internet Outages, Think Failover

Until last year, I had a Inseego MiFi M2100 mobile hotspot through my Verizon account. I kept it around as a fallback when the pandemic hit, because we had to have Internet access, guaranteed, while my son was attending high school remotely. He’s off to college now, and we’re doing our best to cut recurring expenses — like most American families nowadays. So we dropped the hotspot when we switched over from Verizon to Spectrum for cellphone service last year. The iPhone isn’t quite as robust as the MiFi device, but it does the job in a pinch.

Looking at news coverage of Tuesday’s Internet outage, Spectrum is quoted as saying it arose from “a third-party infrastructure issue caused by the impact of Hurricane Beryl.” My guess is that an Internet POP/peering location got flooded, or lost power, and backup generators couldn’t or didn’t pick up the slack. The afore-linked story also tells me that the affected area also included Laredo, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley, and Corpus Christi.

Resilience Matters

As somebody who makes his living at least partly thanks to Internet access — I use it for research and learning, for business communications, to obtain and deliver work assignments, and a whole lot more — ongoing access is essential. I’m glad I could use the iPhone as a failover device, but it definitely battered my productivity.

It’s enough to get me thinking about doubling up on fiber-optic coverage, and bringing in the AT&T Uverse fiber service alongside Spectrum’s CATV-based GbE service for redundancy’s sake. The question then becomes: it it worth the extra expense? I’ll have to think on that…



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