Friday, May 27, 2011

Perdido en cyberspace: the mysterious Argentine internet outage of 2011

"The internet?" asked Homer in an ep of The Simpsons that aired some years ago, "Is that thing still around?" The joke, of course, is that the internet has become central enough to life that it's hard to imagine life itself without it. This is all the more true when, for example, one is in a foreign country and the internet provides a much-needed lifeline to friends and work.

So what would happen if the internet were to mysteriously and inexplicably die, or at least slow to a pace that pretty much moots its use, throughout aforementioned foreign country?

Welcome, dear readers, to my world, at least for the past 24hrs. Indeed, twas upon returning to my depto (abbreviation for "departamento," which is the way Argentinians say "apartamento," which is the way other Spanish-speaking folks say "apartment") and thinking to myself "How great it is to have a slick and fast internet connection! With it on my side, I'm connected to the world," that I found aforementioned connection worryingly slow. Things worsened to the point where, this AM, I could not access work email or law blogs. By this afternoon, no Facebook. Twitter? Kaput.

I had an image of the scene in Tom Sawyer where Tom and Becky are stuck in the cave, and they're running out of candles, and the light slowly and predictably flickers to a point where it's all snuffed out. Of course, in that scenario the two of them faced near-certain death, while I simply face a presumably temporary communication inconvenience, so in that sense I'm clearly better off than Tom Sawyer was. But on the other hand, upon escaping the cave, Tom found a stash of treasure that made him independently wealthy, so in a way I'm worse off than he was. And yet on still another hand (apparently at this point we're dealing with some kind of hideous, three-handed freak of a creature), the amount Tom found would have amounted to a mere pittance by today's standards, so perhaps it's really all a trivial point.

Ahem. Enough digressive rumination. Point being, my communication was cut out from under me, and it was a real drag. And just when I was writing a script in my head for how to explain and discuss the situation with some random Argie computer technician, I got a call from my Argentine colleague who explained that there was an internet outage throughout the country, or at least throughout Bs As. Strangely,this felt reassuring as now this problem is not mine but is something nation- or city-wide that is out of my hands. The scale of the crisis is somehow freeing.

Final strange note: this nationwide internet outage continues, yet I am currently blogging. How is this the case? I can't explain why this is true, but here's an intriguing fact. Almost all sites are down, even ones that aren't particularly rich in video or anything. But Gmail and Blogger are working like a charm (Blogger is a google-based site). What could this mean? Additional evidence that Google really is taking over the world, or at least the internet? I can't explain, but this does at least mean that until (and unless!) the situation is fixed, I'll be Gmailing and Bloggering like a mo-fo.