Lessons From a New Norm of Internet Shutdowns

Nearly 60K people in London lost Internet access when their Virgin fiber was ripped out by a crew that didn’t check for authorization before drilling
Compare and contrast:

First: “I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them

The usual industry and education narrative about cell phones, social media, and digital technology generally is that they build community, foster communication, and increase efficiency, thus improving our lives. Mark Zuckerberg’s recent reformulation of Facebook’s mission statement is typical: the company aims to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Without their phones, most of my students initially felt lost, disoriented, frustrated, and even frightened. That seemed to support the industry narrative: look how disconnected and lonely you’ll be without our technology. But after just two weeks, the majority began to think that their cell phones were in fact limiting their relationships with other people, compromising their own lives, and somehow cutting them off from the “real” world.

Second: “Internet shutdowns used to be rare. They’re increasingly becoming the norm in much of the world

David Kaye, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, has described the ongoing shutdown as a “communications siege” and “collective punishment without even the allegation of an underlying offense.”

Within security theory we would see this as an authorization dilemma.

In the first story the teacher clearly is an authority over students, although she does admit to asking for their permission before taking away their Internet.

In the second story the government clearly also is an authority over citizens, however that permission step becomes the rub. What if the citizens object to their government?

In either case, it’s interesting to see how the teacher builds a case that Internet removal generates a lot of fear and anxiety at first, before shifting to a realization it may be even more harmful to have it restored.

Self-determination is one issue, obviously needing to be kept in the debate, yet the other much more interesting situation here is that shutdowns could have a positive effect (e.g. especially if Facebook is being used by anyone, as it tends to be the tool of dictatorship, mass atrocities and destruction of self-determination).


The FBI says fiber cables in Fremont, Berkeley and San Jose have been intentionally severed in 11 instances since July 2014. Federal officials say there is no evidence that the San Francisco Bay Area acts are linked with the sabotage of a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. substation in April 2013. The nighttime attack knocked out phone and emergency 911 service in Silicon Valley.

Not to mention the odd coincidence that Bay Area fiber cables were cut 04/2013 at 0100 and 04/2009 at 0100.

Most of the 10 severed fiber-optic cables were in San Jose, where the first four were cut shortly before 1:30 a.m. Thursday in an underground vault along Monterey Highway north of Blossom Hill Road. Those belong to AT&T. Four more underground cables, at least two of which belong to AT&T, were cut about two hours later at two locations near each other along Old County Road near Bing Street in San Carlos, authorities said. Two others were cut in south San Jose. Each time, the vandals had to pry up manhole covers, climb down into vaults and chop through the thick cables.

Someone has been working hard for over a decade on multiple levels to destroy critical infrastructure. I also remember an even bigger event around 2002 that disconnected much of San Jose but there seems to be no reports anymore on the web.

Update 2020: “Sonic investigates internet disruption that cut off customers throughout Northern California

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