North American Network Operators Group

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Keeping the lines of communication open

  • From: Sean Donelan
  • Date: Sat Sep 15 20:44:38 2001

As things have slowed down, I've had a chance to read some of the
other threads.  These are my personal opinions.  I've been an
observer of communications through several wars, bombings and
natural disasters over the last 12 years.  And sometimes I've
been very close to disasters, and worked as a volunteer.

There have been several threads about turning off communications,
taking action against communication providers perceived as supporting
the enemy, or how the attackers used the freedom of communications
against us.

I propose, even if the attackers used our own communications, in
fact by maintaining communication service we may have helped save
more lives.  Instead of cutting off communications, the best response
is to keep as much operating as possible.  Yes, its possible the
terrorists might be using the circuit, but it is also possible the
link is rescue effort or even a person trying to get a warning
out.  Dubbing the voice of the spokespeople associated with the
terrorists may be a symbolic gesture.

Cell phones and air phones allowed passengers call loved ones and
authorities, but also kept the passengers informed about the other
attacks in progress which may have changed what they did.  Things
might have been different if technical measures prevented passengers
from using cell phones on airlines, or if cell phone providers had
blocked those calls.

Immediately after the attacks, communications once again helped victims
and rescuers.  Cell phones and e-mail were used before and after the
towers collapsed. Rescue efforts are continuing by trying to locate
beepers and cell phones of the victims.

Network traffic went up, and many of the news sites had initial problems.
Sites like Google, Yahoo, and ISPs mirrored information from the major
news sites on local web sites.  Although it may be a technical violation
of the DMCA, several people simulcasted radio, television, even close
captioning over the net.

Although we'd like to think the government has better communications
links such as NAWAS, in practice the commercial communications links
carry most of the information and informed the public and even public
officials. One of the problems with government communications, is no one
has enough clearance to know the whole story, so the public communication
networks often serve as the primary information source even within
government.  Its not a coincidence that every Emergency Operations Center
watches the commercial news networks.

The USA has maintained communication links with Cuba, USSR, even Hitler
(invoking Godwin's law) through both cold and hot wars.

I'm sure some people will say this is somehow different.  But a hundred
years of electronic communications, and a thousand years of communications
has shown in almost every case the country which seal itself off from
communications with the outside world has eventually destroyed itself.
Propaganda may be a concern, but history shows its hard to fool all
the people all the time.  Propaganda works best when there isn't an
alternative source of truthful information.  One reason why countries
acting as hosts for terrorists try to limit communications is outside
information sources makes their internal propaganda less effective.