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The Backhoe, The Internet's Natural Enemy

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the brace-yourself-for-impact dept.

Security 382

Juha-Matti Laurio writes "Experts say last week's Sprint outage is a reminder that with all the attention paid to computer viruses and the latest Windows security holes, the most vulnerable threads in America's critical infrastructures lie literally beneath our feet. A study issued last month by the Common Ground Alliance, or CGA -- an industry group comprised of utilities and construction companies -- calculated that there were more than 675,000 excavation accidents in 2004 in which underground cables or pipelines were damaged." I estimate that one third of those accidents occured within the 5 block radius surrounding my office.

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511375)

fp 4 me!

Nothing New (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511383)

In the 90s, the University I worked at had a whole building cut off by a backhoe. The rest of the network stayed up, because the core network was a redundant FDDI ring.

Re:Nothing New (2, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511542)

A whole building? Pff. That's nothing.

Anyone remember back in the late 90's when AT&T lost its ENTIRE frame-relay network [networkworld.com] ? Some 6,000 or so customers suddenly lost network connectivity?

According to the scuttlebutt around AT&T a piece of construction machinery backed into some sort of switching station and took the whole thing out. 6,000 customers, just like *that*. Try beating that one.

Re:Nothing New (2, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511721)

Ok. It wasn't from a backhoe (but from a software bug) but on January 15, 1990 114 AT&T switching nodes went down and cut off service to at least 60,000 customers. http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~nikitab/courses/cs294- 8/hw1.html [berkeley.edu]

Re:Nothing New (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511787)

As I said, the scuttlebutt claimed it was actually a backhoe.

I imagine that the reality was probably more complex. i.e. A severing of a connection could have started the cascading failure. Or it could have been one big cooincidence. But internally, the blame was placed squarely on a backhoe. :-)

Nothing is for certain... (1, Insightful)

ZiakII (829432) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511388)

Nothing is for certain.... Take the big power outage of 2003, which lasted for several days, why would the Internet be any different?

Re:Nothing is for certain... (1, Insightful)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511412)

In reality this points to a lack of documentation &&|| communication.
If the companies properly and centrally documented where their pipes and cable are and teh construction contractors would refer to that documentation before any excavation, then these kinds of errors would be greatly reduced.
-nB

Re:Nothing is for certain... (1)

ZiakII (829432) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511479)

In reality this points to a lack of documentation &&|| communication. If the companies properly and centrally documented where their pipes and cable are and teh construction contractors would refer to that documentation before any excavation, then these kinds of errors would be greatly reduced.

Basically shit happens... o well

Re:Nothing is for certain... (0)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511514)

You have no idea what you are talking about.

People who have vulnerable shit underground pay to be notified about excavation. Then when someone excavates, they are notified. Everyone with an interest in the area shows up and spraypaints the pavement.

Then the excavators don't cut where things have been marked.

If you would like to point out where the flaws are in this system (certainly there are flaws) then I'm all fucking ears. So to speak.

Here's yer flaws (2, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511717)

People who have vulnerable shit underground pay to be notified about excavation. Then when someone excavates, they are notified. Everyone with an interest in the area shows up and spraypaints the pavement. If you would like to point out where the flaws are in this system (certainly there are flaws) then I'm all fucking ears. So to speak.

The flaw is in the fact that all these people have to do the right thing. In this case, if some low-level Sprint employee reads the map wrong, a whole state can be without internet access. If some dipshit with a jackhammer doesn't call first, a whole block can be without access.

The better method is to devise a system with sufficient redundancy so that this is more rare than it is. The question is whether consumers are willing to pay for it in the form of somewhat higher rates.

Re:Nothing is for certain... (2, Informative)

Ryan Amos (16972) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511523)

They are. You're supposed to call the telco before digging more than a foot underground. Very few people actually do, and in some states it is against the law to dig without calling. But in the end it's got to be up to the contractors to make the phone call before they dig, and very few do because of tight schedules. 99/100 times this is not really a problem, but when it is a problem, it's a big one.

Re:Nothing is for certain... (4, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511539)

And if you'd read TFA, you'd see that the contracter did call. They were given the go-ahead to dig.

Re:Nothing is for certain... (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511564)

You shouldn't have to make the call in the first place. Because you'd have to call the phone, power, gas, internet, cable, and about 7 other organizations to figure out if there was anything down there. An easier way would be to have it centallized in a database. You type in where you want to dig, In GPS coordinates, and it tells you what is located underneath, if anything.

Re:Nothing is for certain... (5, Informative)

krlynch (158571) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511754)

In many states there's only one number to call, not several. Anywhere you live in MA (and a bunch of other NE states), you call "Dig Safe" at 1 888 DIG SAFE, tell them the date and location of the dig, and they make sure all the appropriate companies are contacted.

Re:Nothing is for certain... (4, Informative)

chroma (33185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511765)

Here in Georgia, USA, at least, you can make one phone call and have all underground gas, cable, phone, sewer, and electric lines located for you. For free. People come from the various services and stick little flags in the ground over the lines.

I had to do this when I dug up part of my front yard to put in a flower bed.

Re:Nothing is for certain... (1)

bdcrazy (817679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511637)

Also note that even calling and getting people to come out and mark where things are doesn't guarantee that stuff is where they say they are, that there isn't more stuff there they don't know about, that there is even stuff there, etc. A lot of it comes down to guess work and being careful while digging.

Re:Nothing is for certain... (1)

Crilen007 (922989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511730)

One thing is for certain... nothing is for certain. Wait..?

Cost?? (4, Interesting)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511390)

I would love to see what all these "oops" cost. Fiber optic is not exactly cheap, and it is a little more complicated than just reconnecting the severed ends. And then take network down time etc.

Can you blame them? (0)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511394)

They're just trying to find a torrent of Dig Dug...

Re:Can you blame them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511602)

They're just trying to find a torrent of Dig Dug...

Yeah, I couldn't think of any good puns either.

Re:Can you blame them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511670)

This is the single dumbest joke I have ever read on /.

Nice work.

We must be in the same office building (1)

pete.com (741064) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511396)

We must be in the same office building :-{

In Soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Jim in Buffalo (939861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511403)

...telecom companies dig YOU up!

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511446)

mod parent down, he's a retard

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0, Offtopic)

drpimp (900837) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511475)

Sorry, that one is played out!

Re:In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511675)

The hoe backs you!

it's called backhoe fade in telecom (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511407)

and I see it at least daily during construction season. just because you have two carriers doesn't mean their fibers don't run in the same duct, everybody cross-leases dark fiber to everybody else.

you need protection from backhoe fade, you have to do the interagency engineering for separate feeds on separate systems from separate directions. will at least triple your cost to bring it up.

Re:it's called backhoe fade in telecom (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511570)

This is why i setup two connections .. one is a T1 (primary) and the other is a microwave setup to the next city both are always active and alow trafic to route between them so they would have to take out sevral major trunks to take our office out.. and if that happened.. well i think i am the least worried person around

Human error... (2, Insightful)

Firehed (942385) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511410)

So someone cut through an internet-carrying line with a backhoe? Well, it's still a much higher chance of staying safe than aboveground lines. I think we just need a better system of marking stuff. Unfortunately, all error ends up being human, so things like this will continue to happen until our robotic overlords finally take over. Oh well.

Re:Human error... (3, Interesting)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511500)

ah here a great human error story. House gets blow up because they connected the wrong gas line. Home in Lexington explodes [boston.com] . If a company that has the maps of all of its own gas lines can do this. Think of the possibilities when DHS tries to classify the listing of all the fiber optic in the US

Re:Human error... (2, Interesting)

Random Destruction (866027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511571)

I agree. I worked for a year and a half with a geotechnical engineering place, and one of my jobs was to get the service providers to do locates so we could figure out where to make test holes.

The problem is that each service provider has their own idea of when this should be done. Some don't even know where their services run. If they do know, they only check within a few feet of the preposed test hole. So this means that once phone, sewer, and water have agreed, natural gas comes along and says to move the hole 10 feet to one side. Now the locates need to be done all over again. Often when calling them back to locate in a new place, theyd just say "enh, youre fine.".

what a mess.

Solution (3, Interesting)

elbenito69 (868244) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511719)

A possible solution would be to embed RFID tags every 3 feet or so inside the conduit, allowing for easier location. Code embedded in tag would give owner, pipe or line type, and depth.

Don't Worry (0)

tealover (187148) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511411)

We're moving everything to digital so there won't be any wires anywhere in the world.

Re: I can't wait (1)

Psykechan (255694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511482)

At least right now I can get one hundred percent digital quality television. Now you're telling me that the whole world will be completely digital quality too?

Will technical marvels never cease?

The oboe and the elbow are (0, Offtopic)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511414)

the EARS' natural enemies...

lowest bidders what? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511419)

I'm sure the contract to lay that fiber went to the lowest bidder. Good ol' capitalism at work.

The Backhoe, the sailor's best friend. (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511421)

A tip, by the way, for all who go down to the sea in ships:

Always carry a length of fiber-optic cable in your pocket. Should you be shipwrecked and find yourself stranded on a desert island, bury the cable in the sand. A few hours later, a guy driving a backhoe will be along to dig it up. Ask him to rescue you.

Re:The Backhoe, the sailor's best friend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511647)

Oh dear. I guess I do have a filthy mind. You said sailor and backhoe in the same sentence and I thought you were going to somehow elude to a rubber made from fiberoptic cable.

Hard Problem (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511428)

It is funny, but a company will spend tons of money to buy high-availability products, fail over connections, redundant machines, and it only takes one backhoe to bring it all down. At our company, we are trying to figure out how to use cable over telephone pole (business class cable) as a backup in case we get "dug up", which would provide a new level of reliability, but I am sure somewhere out there there is still some unavoidable single point of failure that no amount of money can overcome.

Re:Hard Problem (4, Funny)

omeomi (675045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511528)

At our company, we are trying to figure out how to use cable over telephone pole (business class cable) as a backup in case we get "dug up", which would provide a new level of reliability, but I am sure somewhere out there there is still some unavoidable single point of failure that no amount of money can overcome.

A backhoe driver that accidentally digs up your cable, and then backs into the telephone pole?

Good logic (5, Insightful)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511438)

So the DHS wants to protect this infrastructure by making the location of such lines protected. Which of course is not going to help the situation because when you call Dig Safe they wont know whats under you. So you run the risk of severing more cables, and you run the risk of injury to the workers. I tip my hats to them.

Hiking safety (-1, Redundant)

Burdell (228580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511443)

Remember, when going hiking in the woods, always carry a piece of fiber optic cable. That way, if you get lost, you can throw it on the ground. A backhoe will be along shortly to cut the fiber and you can follow it back to civilization.

And on the ocean...? (1)

kusanagi374 (776658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511452)

Well, we also have cables going thru the ocean and the same kind of problems happens as well, but it's obviously not backhoes that cause that. What are the top reasons cables go bye bye on the ocean?

Re:And on the ocean...? (5, Funny)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511509)

What are the top reasons cables go bye bye on the ocean?

Based on this article, I'd hazard it's either:
1: Backhoes falling off ships transporting them hitting cables.
2: Submarines with backhoes, no doubt performing black ops at the time.

Re:And on the ocean...? (2, Insightful)

grommit (97148) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511541)

Anchors. [theregister.co.uk]

Re:And on the ocean...? (2, Funny)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511697)

From your link:

> The telco is now suing the vessel...

Darn right! Why the hell didn't the ship call Miss Utility and have lines drawn in the water before recklessly dropping an anchor into the water?

Re:And on the ocean...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511593)

There are all sorts of problems under the ocean like volcanos and landslides but the best fiber optic predator is the shark. Of course sharks are attracted to laser beams so they bite the cables. I've seen a cross-section of an oceanic fiber and it's huge with lots of steel wound around the important parts to protect from sharks.

Re:And on the ocean...? (1)

frodo527 (614767) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511645)

Sharks with freakin's laser beams!

Re:And on the ocean...? (3, Interesting)

ecryder (851413) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511672)

NSA (not a joke). Here is an article from ZDnet about it. AND this is PRE-9/11. What do you think has happened since? http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-529826.html [zdnet.com]

Botched NSA taps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511757)

Maybe the guys on the USS Jimmy Carter doesn't always get the connections right :)

Ah, yes, Qwest did this to my home town... (5, Interesting)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511454)

That reminds me of when Qwest cut all telephone lines to my home town - including 911. It made the local news, and the police chief and fire chief were both pretty pissed about it. They had to increase police patrols since no one could just call in a crime, fire, or medical emergency.

Fortunately nothing serious happened while 911 was out.

Then Qwest did it again, two days later, on the same line...

Ah, telecom monopolies.

Re:Ah, yes, Qwest did this to my home town... (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511639)

Ok, that's well beyond the plausible domain of human error. That's "dumbass with big machines". Human error I can deal with. Public acts of indecent stupidity, especially those that could damage society, should be punishable by decapitiation by the machinery involved.

Re:Ah, yes, Qwest did this to my home town... (1)

Beatbyte (163694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511760)

least i heard, the fine was close to $100k/hour for cutting off 911 access. hopefully someone saw that money locally (doubt it though).

Offtopic: Gmail (-1, Offtopic)

Reducer2001 (197985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511459)

Is it just me or has Gmail been down for a while today? Or maybe there was a fiber cut somewhere? :)

Re:Offtopic: Gmail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511520)

blah blah beta blah blah blah beta blah blah

Re:Offtopic: Gmail (-1, Offtopic)

milgr (726027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511561)

This week, Gmail has been extremely slow for me. I switched to html-only mode to speed it up a bit, but it is still slow.

IT jokes (-1, Redundant)

MagicDude (727944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511465)

I was once given some advice by an IT friend of mine. He said that everyone who goes camping or hiking should keep a foot of network cable in their pocket. If they ever get lost and can't find their way back, they should dig a shallow hole and bury the cable. When the backhoe comes to dig it up, you can ask the driver how to get back to civilazation.

Information Technologist vs. The Red Neck (5, Funny)

kyoko21 (198413) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511466)

Information Technologist: 0

Red Neck: 1

Re:Information Technologist vs. The Red Neck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511767)

What about us Red neck IT guys?

They call it an "Accident" (2, Funny)

mr_stinky_britches (926212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511469)

We have had SBC Yahoo DSL at home for about 6 or 7 years now. A few years ago when comcast was "upgrading" our cable service for HDTV, their crew managed to cut through the telephone line buried in the ground outside our house, which killed our internet and phone service! I think they train them to do that. In the time it took SBC to come and repair it, we could have potentially switched over to cable?

is this what they were thinking?

Argh i give up! Those conniving small minded cable companies :X

--
Keepin' it real over at http://wi-fizzle.com/ [wi-fizzle.com] !

Not Surprising (1)

helmutvs (912204) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511471)

I'm wondering if anyone else has had this experience. You're power or phone service is out when you get home. Suddenly you remember the group of city workers mulling about a section of excavated road not too far away...

Learn from the backhoe (2, Interesting)

JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511480)

Evi Nemeth used to tell us how to lay out a fiber ring -- separate egress from the buildings, diverse routes from location to location, etc -- and how NOT to lay out a ring.
When CU Boulder put in their fiber ring, they ran the spans in separate conduit, which they lay in the same trench. The conduits were not at different depths, nor were they really that far apart (about 3 inches)
They put the bright orange plastic sheet ("Hey backhoe guy! Stop digging now!") right on top of the conduit, then filled in the trench.

Surprisingly, it got cut.

It's the backhoe (2, Funny)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511481)

That's like saying that the gun kills, and not the person holding the gun. So much for another Slashdot article title.

That's when "nothing to see here" gets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511483)

... Nothing to ping here, move along!

On related notes... (0, Offtopic)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511485)

The Sharpie, Sony's natural enemy.

Heat, the XBox 360's natural enemy.

Re:On related notes... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511538)

The Sharpie, Sony's natural enemy.

Is that The Sharpie, or The Shift Key?

Actually they both sound about the same.

From ze smallest divot to ze largest canyon... (2, Funny)

snowwrestler (896305) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511486)

Holes! define who vee are, und vhere vee are going.

Idiot workers are the cause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511501)

I remember an article way back comparing Japanese construction practices to American. In Japan, the construction supervisor's job was on the line if they screwed up and hit an underground line. Net result, a lot less construction outages in Japan.

Backhoes and Sharpened Sticks (1)

TheOtherAgentM (700696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511505)

To misquote Futurama:

"The Internet was impervious to our most powerful magnetic fields, yet in the end it succumbed to a harmless sharpened stick."

internet not interline (1)

AkA lexC (939709) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511516)

I seem to remember the whole point of the internet was to maintain communications in times of war by being a.. wait for it.. NETWORK!!.. otherwise we're at constant risk from JCB's of mass destruction.

Re:internet not interline (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511789)

Ah, but a network is costly to deploy and maintain on the level necesary for streaming video and snazzy flash animations. So the commercial ventures who took over from the unis and DARPA had a choice - make it robust or make it cheap. We knew the answer before they even picked up the knife and fork.

grumble (1)

dpaton.net (199423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511518)

Let's hear it for the infamous fiber-seeking backhoes!

I spent most of last month waiting for SBC to un-b0rk my DSL and phone service when the fiber loop I'm on was cut by the village (while they were installing new street lamps, 30 blocks away).

Should increase liability / penalties (5, Insightful)

macklin01 (760841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511531)

According to the article, in 2004, nearly half of the accidents were caused by on-site workers not checking with the proper support numbers for underground cables and/or pipelines.

I wonder just how much those incidents would be reduced if companies were fined a stiff penalty for digging without calling these numbers. The type of astronomical fines/penalties levied against virus writers would seem very appropriate in these cases, given the type of economic damage that can be caused by telecom outages.

I'm glad to see that a national calling center is being established (similar to 911, according to the article). Now, it will be easier for workers to call. But I still think we need the other half: better (financial) incentive to make those calls in the first place. -- Paul

This just happend to us today! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511540)

I quite literally just got phone and internet back in the office. I tested the connection by going to /. and this was the top story. Way too funny!

Main Pipe (2, Funny)

schlichte (885306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511557)

I worked for a company that built the network for a new building on the University campus. The main feed was a 1200 foot run of fiber. It was put in, terminated and tested and all was good. 2 Days later the line was ripped in half by a backhoe from the company they contracted to do the plumbing.
Rumors said the guy was fired due to failing a drug test.

Re:Main Pipe (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511657)

Rumors said the guy was fired due to failing a drug test.

He didn't have enough?

Nah... (1)

schlichte (885306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511753)

he was digging for glass [pride.org]

Re:Main Pipe (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511758)

2 Days later the line was ripped in half by a backhoe from the company they contracted to do the plumbing.
Rumors said the guy was fired due to failing a drug test.


Fired? That's nothing, back in Biblical Times he would be totally stoned. [wikipedia.org]

Hah! (4, Funny)

Gaewyn L Knight (16566) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511562)

Every time I see a backhoe go by I go into an Elmer Fudd voice and say, "Be wery wery qwiet... I'm hunting fiber"

For some reason the Servers and Networks guys don't think it is funny.

ARPA identifies backhoe fade effect (4, Funny)

ispland (460855) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511579)

Those of use from the telecom world recoginze
this as "backhoe fade" and ARPA has conducted
considable research on the effect of fiber
optic cable to attrace backhoes in the wild...

ARPA Science Research Funding News Today......

                ARPA to Fund Network Reliability Research

Washington, DC -

The Advanced Research Projects Agency of the DoD announced today they are
funding a three-year effort to improve the field reliability of
fiber-optic communications networks. The program is aimed at reducing
network outages from damage to buried fiber optic cables caused by
construction machinery. Many telecommunications outages are caused each
year when machines called "backhoes" dig-up underground fibers, cutting
them and causing massive service disruptions.

This phenomenon is commonly referred to as "backhoe fade" and
the uncanny ability of the construction backhoe to locate buried
cables will be the focus of this effort.

Dr. Zweiback Gimfizel of the Marginalia Institute of Technoplasty
has been designated Principle Investigator on the project and
held a news conference today and described the proposed line of
research.

        "We are taking a page from the biologists who discovered
        the magnetic organ in the brains of homing pigeon. This
        organ senses the earth's magnetic field and allows the
        pigeon to track its location.

        "In like manner, our research will focus
        on identifying the specialized organ structure within
        the backhoe that can somehow sense the location of glass
        fibers."

        "The hope is that if this fiber-seeking mechanism can be
        identified, measures can be developed to disguise
        telecommunications cables, thereby creating "stealth"
        fiber bundles which will not attract the attention of
        the rampaging backhoes."

In another unrelated statement today, ARPA announced the creation of the
Remote Autonomous Rodent Program which will work on developing specialized
weapons systems for attacking the underground communications systems of
adversaries. In recent theater actions, modern fiber-optic communications
systems have proven quite resilient to traditional attacks and require
new techniques to disable them.

Dr. Gimback Zweifizel of Hardly Yardwell University was designated
Principle Investigator. In a prepared statement, Dr. Zweifizel noted that
this work program was funded for three years and was to produce a field
demonstration of a working system. Other details of the project are
classified.

Just Wait (1)

LukePieStalker (746993) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511589)

Wait until our backhoe overlords start thinking for themselves. Remember Killdozer [brainsonfilm.com] ?

I work in the pipeline construction industry (5, Informative)

iibbmm (723967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511600)

In California we are required to notify USA DigAlert before all excavation. DigAlert then notifies all agencies with pipe in the area. Most of the time, they come out and mark, the other times, nobody does.

When nobody comes out an marks, and their line gets hit, it's on them. If it's marked and we hit it, it's on us. Accidents happen. Digging around mismarked and unmarked utilities in a big hole in the ground isn't easy.

Personally I'm more worried about my guys hitting a pressurized gas line than someones precious telco wire. Wire gets fixed in a matter of hours.

How to recognize a backhoe (5, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511616)

The Common Yellow Backhoe [ellingsondrainage.com]
The Common Yellow Backhoe [68.232.111.189] attempting to hide from view.
The Hammer Backhoe [onsiterents.com] evolved to fit particular niches.

Re:How to recognize a backhoe (1)

rco3 (198978) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511685)

Now that's funny. Wish I had mod points for ya.

Backhoe:Internet - Hole:? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511628)

The backhoe is the natural enemy of the internet.

We also know that the hole's only natural enemy is the pile.

We'll never win the war against stupidity (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511655)

Anything that's underground can be damaged by a backhoe... even big watermains...

Anyone remember the 4-story high geyser in Old Montreal last year?

You'd think that backhoe operators would triple-check what's underground in a metropolitan area...

Switch to Wireless (1)

Jaro (4361) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511659)

So maybe we should all switch to wireless internet.

Forget about civilian damage... consider worse (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511662)

Would it be THAT easy for a terrorist or other agressive attack on our communications infrastructure?

I'm also left wondering why these big players like Spint doesn't have two wires for every important line like this? Cut one wire and the alternate route patches over with a notice. Cut the other and a notice is issued... both without incident to large scale service. If I can imagine it, then I know someone else out there has already thought of it.

DIY Backhoe Fade (5, Funny)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511665)

I've actually created my own internet outages with my (now sold) backhoe, twice. Neither of them the obvious. I had a 802.11b feed from a neighbor's house, 1.1 miles away (my hill to his tower). Worked great, almost always. Finally figured out that if I parked my backhoe at --> that end of the back yard, it was enough into the fresnel zone of the wireless link that things got wodgy.

Next time I created backhoe fade, was again in an unexpected way. I'd been trenching along the driveway, after dutifully and carefully marking the underground phone line to the house (that the brain-trust from the phone company decided to run next to my driveway, despite instructions not to). I carefully and successfully avoided the cable, no worries there. Then, when reaching juuuuuuust a bit too far over, I got the backhoe stuck in the muddy ditch along the road. Apparently, in the effort to get un-stuck, I pressed down on the cable, which then stretched over a rock in the trench and broke.

The phone company (eventually) got out there and tried to say I dug it up. I showed 'em exactly what happened - yes, I'd been digging. Yes, the wire was marked. Yes, none of my digging was along the wire's path (all true). The cable had clear marks of a pull over a rock, not a cut from a hoe. Shear vs. tension, obvious from inspection.

Phone company guy didn't want any part of explainations until I (a) bet him that I could dig right (made an X) here and find a big rock with a sharp edge "that you people left in the trench of this improperly installed wire", and (b) pointed out that if he's gonna dig the trench, he's standing in poison ivy while doing so, and I could just go get the backhoe and make it easier for all involved.

He called his boss, explained the high points of the situation (including the poison ivy, which inexplicably a guy in his job didn't recognize without help), and they fixed the cable no charge. But, I bet I'm one of those statistcs in the article.

solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511683)

Just bury the fibre about 10' down, and make sure to put a gas-line, or high-voltage cable about 7' down in the same trench.

T-Shirt (2, Funny)

MBCook (132727) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511684)

Is it just me, or does this need to be on a T-Shirt? Put the picture of a backhoe in a yellow diamond caution sign with the phrase below it.

This is defiantly true though. Living in a fairly recent subdivision, back when the construction was closer to my house this would happen all the time. The phone. The cable. The internet. Even the power once.

I think it's clear what we need to do: go kill all the backhoes.

Save the internet!

mighty night of mismanagement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511701)

the company sought alternatives to "physically diverse protection paths" for its backbone network after confronting the "substantial capital investment" of running new cables

what I see is greed, upper managerial greed

if engineers were just allowed to build properly, none of this would be an issue

big business has been corrupted due to excessive affluence, therefore ineffective systems are the result

we been over-billed and under-delivered for years

personally, i suspect it will be getting worse

Backhoe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511707)

For those of you like me who didn't know what the fuck a backhoe is, here we go [wikipedia.org] .

That needs to be on a t-shirt! (1)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511708)

My coworkers thought I was choking when I read the headline. This needs to be on a t-shirt, STAT! Something I can get on the ThinkGeek store or something. A profile of a backhoe with "The Internet's Natural Enemy" under it. LOL!

It's a never ending game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511748)

I worked at WilTel back in the early '90s. Back then, when a backhoe operator cut our fiber, we would manually patch failed DS3s onto spare capacity to get a few major customers back online-- this was before SONET rings. And you could always count a fiber cut to last about six hours... That was the amount of time to get people out there and splice it back together.

We had lawyers that just had the job of trying to recover damages from these small backhoe companies. Usually their cut was the result of negligence. If they followed procedure, and called for a locate, we could mark the fiber and even stand around on site if they were digging within a certain proximity. Anyway, so these lawyers would win a judgement, but the companies typically had no assests beyond their one or two backhoes, trucks, etc. So they would give up that equipment, turn around, and start another company doing the exact same business. There was no way to keep them from doing it again the following week.

The original Qwest contractors gave us a particularly bad summer if I remember right... They took their "revolutionary" rail car which could trench fiber along the railroad tracks, and cut us probably a dozen times down in the southeast states.

Since the backhoe operators are contractors to the bigger telecom/power/cable companies, there is really no way to recover and damages from them. Cute game.

Cut em off at the pass (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511752)

If I was a terrorist & I knew that airlines & disaster-ready buildings were sealed up tight, what would I do ?

I'd quietly set sleepers up in housing & or commerce near major network lines.
I'd build tunnels to theese lines (can't be any harder than setting up an entertainment center in a cave or building a tunnel between Mexico & the US) but wouldn't touch them.

I'd release a video once a good percentage of my sleepers had their tunnels setup to notify the rest of them to get their asses in gear.

I'd release another video when it was time for everyone to cut the ribbins.

The other sleepers would know it's time to start blowing stuff up once communication was in chaos.

Did you know that... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14511766)

backhoes were originally created to fight elephants?

Signs of a Burgeoning Addiction (1)

ElboRuum (946542) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511777)

99.999999% uptime is an unreasonable expectation for any service. Funny how the Internet is expected to be though.

Sounds like an addiction to me...

I think we need an intervention.

Simple fix (0)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14511785)

Bury the cables deeper... I'm thinking a couple of kilometers down. Let's see them hit those!

Off-topic: Name Not Used for Operator in "The Matrix": Backhoe

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