Latest Threat To Clog The Internet: Bird Flu

from the say-what? dept

Now, we’ve heard all sorts of nutty claims over the years that the internet was on the verge of collapsing — but at least most of them seemed to be based on at least somewhat reasonable premises concerning new applications (such as video or file sharing) that use a lot more bandwidth than previous applications. However, the latest warning just seems to be fear mongering for the sake of fear mongering. Broadband Reports points out that some consultants (I’m sorry, “business continuity planners”) are warning that bird flu could crash the internet next. The idea is that if there’s a big bird flu pandemic, everyone will start working from home and telecommuting — and that work will then overload the internet. This doesn’t mean that such scenarios shouldn’t be considered — but it seems to go a bit far to assume that such an event would automatically overload the network. Assuming that most of the workers who need the internet already use it at work, all telecommuting would do is distribute the bandwidth use and maybe increase it at the margin. It’s hard to see how having everyone switch to remote working would really add that much burden to the network — but it sure makes for a good story for these consultants.

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Comments on “Latest Threat To Clog The Internet: Bird Flu”

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Chuck Willis says:

Internet Failure

The internet won’t fail from too many telecommuters, it will fail from the power grid not being up in many places due to lack of workers. Even if the internet providers have diesel backup, those diesels suck down fuel, and the oil companies have said privately that at 30% absense rate, they shut the refineries down. On any given day we have just a few weeks of stored fuel. Some amount of that will be untouchable, it will be reserved for the military, hospitals and critical government functions. If each wave drags on for 8-10 weeks, there can be a gap of 4-5 weeks when fuel isn’t available to run the backup generators. No power, no internet. In a pandemic, you can’t focus on just one piece of the infrastructure, you have to look at all of the pieces being affected at the same time. A study done by Booz-Allen last month with the World Health Organization and industry leaders basically concluded that by the 28th day into a pandemic, nearly all services have ceased activity, — power, water, food distribution, telecommunications, medical services, energy production, etc. The Dept of Homeland Security has warned us for over a year of the same things and concerns. Our infrastructure is very complex, and very prone to failure when a large part of the workers are incapacitated. This isn’t the flu where I catch it and feel bad and stay home for a few days. This is a flu that if I catch it and survive the first few days, I will basically be bed ridden for 4 or 5 weeks, and too weak to work for an additional 2-3 weeks. Our industry is not geared for that kind of absence. Failure of one piece of the infrastructure precipitates failure of the other pieces.

Enrico Suarve says:


I am genuinely sick of this – I can’t be bothered being scared any more, please could I opt out and just be vaguely worried?

I am utterly sick of the media sensationalism to the point that I don’t trust them at all

We had an outbreak in a UK turkey farm the last few weeks – one of the questions reporters put to a scientist working on the problem (or an ‘expert’ I forget which) was roughly “should consumers be worried about contracting bird flu from turkeys in supermarkets?”

His answer was along the lines of “there is a very slim chance that a bird suffering from the disease may have made it to a shelf but you don’t catch birdflu from eating cooked meat you get it from coming into contact with a infected live or recently deceased bird”

By the end of the interview this was already being translated into scrolling “BIRD FLU COULD ALREADY BE ON YOUR SHELVES” messages


Frankly yes, *if* a pandemic were to hit it would be bad – quite possibly very bad, but the last thing I would give a monkeys about in that situation would be dialing into work. However given the warnings come in the main from a group of people with an already proven, amazing ability to overreact to anything I don’t think i’ll be stocking up on loo roll just yet

I still haven’t been blown up by a dirty bomb, hit by a meteorite or any of the other SHOCK news items over the last decade…..somebody remind me why the press has freedoms again as I think we should give them to someone else beofre they hurt themselves

Chuck (user link) says:

Bird Flu can be stopped

I have a product that sprays alcohol as a non-flammable gas using CO2 as a propellant. It can sanitize computers, KBs and cell phone with no damage, and it is dry in minutes.

It can cover 4800 sq ft in two hours.

I have a video on my site. There is no reason bird flu or any other type of flu should stop the internet or anything else. problem solved.

BDH says:

It's the Money, Honey

If you can’t work, from home or not, you won’t get paid. If you can’t participate in the continuation of the company you work for – it will go under. Then what? You can’t afford your Tamiflu, your non-existent pandemic vaccine, or your Internet connection. Some of you will loose your health care insurance. Some will loose more than that.

So yes, if you can work from home running data intensive applications more suited for LAN than WAN, then you will use more bandwidth at home than you would while surfing for crap at work. Thank you, thank you, thank you business continuity consultants for preparing my company to plan for something other than business as usual.

Homeworker says:

Weather test

If today wasn’t a good test of this theory for the New York to Boston corridor I don’t know what might be! In my company the VPN connections into Boston maxxed out at 4800 during the day today. And I suspect that many, many other companies had a large number of people telecommuting. And yet I didn’t experience any service degradation even though I’m in the middle of the two ends.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

Bird flu hospitalises you for weeks, stupids, so even if the infection rates were to be as bad as the tabliods say, then you would not be oin the net. When you come out of hospital, you will find that a whole lot less people are on the net, so bandwidth wil not be an issue. Power supplied by coal fired power stations in many countires will continue, because they have stockpiles to counter the effects of strikes. Hydro power can continue with little attention, although there would be likely to be a lot of maintenace afterwards.
Refineries would need the right 30% to be absent to cause a shutdown, since floorsweepers, administrators, beancountrs, canteen staff, and so forth are not despereately needed to produce fuel.

argyleblanket says:

Misleading Implications

The article implies that the only difference would be that the web surfing or other internet use that normally takes place in the office would take place at home, overloading ISPs. I sincerely doubt this is any cause for concern at all. What would increase bandwidth demand would be normal access to a company’s intranet resources taking place remotely over a VPN, rather than internally in the company’s network. This would conceivably increase traffic, although it’s difficult to see how it could be enough of a problem to bring down the internet.

You could probably figure out the likely impact based on the (not unreasonable) assumption that most of the telecommuters spend most of their day writing/answering emails and editing documents. Probably equivalent to watching a half-dozen YouTube videos.

witchdoctor says:

Re: Misleading Implications

I’m skeptical with reference to the likelihood and impact of this forthcoming influenza pandemic. I’m especially curious as to the vested interests of the doomsayers- mostly WHO officials, business continuity consultants and pharmaceutical product distributors.

My organization has survived 30% absenteeism rates during severe weather conditions, during Christmas week and peak vacation periods. Our operational resilience is attributable to the fact that people are cross-trained as alternates, in the event of prolonged personnel absences. The fact that we’re in the private sector and are not unionized is also worth mentioning.

We’re presently configured for work-from-home telecommuting capability by approximately 25% of our back-office personnel. And we’re stress testing our VPN servers to support twice this volume of concurrent sessions.

I still believe that the best way of combatting an influenza pandemic ( or any flu for that matter) is for people to WASH THEIR FREAKING HANDS more often!

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