Tuesday, February 23, 1999 Published at 18:16 GMT
Internet takes a break
The supposedly indestructible Internet crashed
The UK's Internet has suffered a severe and surprising blackout, just weeks before it transfers to new failsafe cables.
The breakdown brought immediate criticism from Janet's operator, the UK Academic and Research Network.
Its production services director, Dr Ian Smith, told BBC News Online: "Clearly we were not happy that it took so long to restore."
He believes it is "realistic to expect the Internet to be robust, but everything depends on what you have under the Atlantic."
He points out that far more robust, "super-redundant" cables will be in use in the very near future, virtually eliminating the possibility of any repeat of the interruption to service.
"These are not single cables, but actually two separate cables routed hundreds of miles apart across the Atlantic. They can switch from one to the other automatically in just a few milliseconds. We hope to be on that in a couple of weeks."
Automatic restoration of interrupted Internet service has received much attention but it is possible only if there is enough spare capacity. Dr Smith says the new cables will provide that.
"To have a fully redundant connection, you have to have double the capacity. You need the capacity you are using and that you would switch to. There's never been that before, but they have now deliberately designed it into the new cables."
The day-long Internet blackout came as a surprise. It had been widely believed that the Internet's origin as a military communication system meant it would survive even a nuclear assault. In fact, the severing of a transatlantic cable near Iceland was enough.
The Joint Academic Network (Janet), and some other networks, were affected. Janet is used by UK higher education and is the largest network in Britain.
Teleglobe International operate the cable which Janet uses and said that service had been restored by late afternoon on Monday. Normally, Internet traffic would be re-directed via another cable but Teleglobe said this did not happen because the volume of traffic was too high. They were unable to comment further.
Teleglobe owns one of world's most extensive Internet backbones, which is used by over 100 Internet service providers from 71 countries.