In Pandemic, Internet Providers
May Block Specific Websites
have a sound network back-up if a severe pandemic keeps people
home and clogging the Internet, but the Homeland Security Department
has done little planning, Congressional investigators said on
The department does not even have a plan to start work on the
issue, the General Accountability Office said.
But the Homeland Security Department accused the GAO of having
unrealistic expectations of how the Internet could be managed
if millions began to telework from home at the same time as bored
or sick schoolchildren were playing online, sucking up valuable
Experts have for years pointed to the potential problem of Internet
access during a severe pandemic, which would be a unique kind
of emergency. It would be global, affecting many areas at once,
and would last for weeks or months, unlike a disaster such as
a hurricane or earthquake.
H1N1 swine flu has been declared a pandemic but is considered
a moderate one. Health experts say a worse one or a worsening
of this one could result in 40 percent absentee rates at
work and school at any given time and closed offices, transportation
links and other gathering places.
Many companies and government offices hope to keep operations
going as much as possible with teleworking using the Internet.
Among the many problems posed by this idea, however, is the issue
of bandwidth especially the last mile between
a users home and central cable systems.
Such network congestion could prevent staff from broker-dealers
and other securities market participants from teleworking during
a pandemic, reads the GAO report, available here
The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for
ensuring that critical telecommunications infrastructure is protected.
Private Internet providers might need government authorization
to block popular websites, it said, or to reduce residential transmission
speeds to make way for commerce.
The Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council for Critical
Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security, a group of private-sector
firms and financial trade associations, has been working to ensure
that trading could continue if big exchanges had to close because
of the risk of disease transmission.
Because the key securities exchanges and clearing organizations
generally use proprietary networks that bypass the public Internet,
their ability to execute and process trades should not be affected
by any congestion, the GAO report reads.
However, not all had good plans for critical activities if many
of their employees were ill, the report reads.
Homeland Security had done even less, it said.
DHS has not developed a strategy to address potential Internet
congestion, the report said.
It had also not even checked into whether the public or even
other federal agencies would cooperate, GAO said.
The report gives the impression that there is potentially
a single solution to Internet congestion that DHS could achieve
if it were to develop an appropriate strategy, DHSs
Jerald Levine retorted in a letter to the GAO.
An expectation of unlimited Internet access during a pandemic
is not realistic, he added.
full list of h1n1 vaccine ingredients, alerts and warnings.
Reference Source 89
October 28, 2009