what these people need is…an updated frequency allocation table

Rather less depressing; Wired reports on the array of open-source IT tools for disaster relief getting their first use in earnest in Haiti. I remember when your main source for things like Google Earth overlays of aerial photos was Kathryn Cramer, and that was in the United States. However, there’s something I saw that wants drawing attention to.

Here’s Bill Woodcock on NANOG, talking sense:

They’ve already got that, but “faster” only in the sense that it’s already done… They’re limited to a few STM1s, which were quickly overwhelmed by the relief workers. This is a common problem in disaster relief, we saw it particularly when we were working in Indonesia and Thailand during the tsunami… An area that had quite modest Internet usage, and infrastructure which may not be great, but is sufficient to its present requirements, gets a flood of relief workers in who all want to use Skype simultaneously, and determine that the perfectly-functional and previously-sufficient Internet is “broken” and needs to be reengineered.

The existing chain of microwave relays is the Haitian ISPs’ fix for the problem of Teleco having a monopoly fiber landing and setting astronomical prices on access to it.

I’m not interested in reengineering anything, but I am interested in making sure that if aid money goes to the incumbent to fix their fiber, at least the community gets something out of it in the form of the monopoly being broken. Otherwise the fiber being fixed does no one any good, because they still won’t be able to use it, same as before the earthquake.

It’s very easy to spend money and make things worse than they were before

He’s referring to the Haitian submarine cable landing, which was destroyed, although the fibre itself may still be present, and the fact that they did have alternative connectivity to the Dominican Republic by microwave link. I do like the point about relief workers with MacBooks (and corporate preening PR men back at headquarters pressing for teh videos for the nine o’clock news) as a denial-of-service attack, however.

The NANOG community has been helping in various ways, including by finding ways for the engineer in charge of their NAP to get his family out of the country, diesel for the backup generators, and such.

Fortunately, most of the useful stuff except for mapping is low-bandwidth, voice and messaging. However, that usually means GSM or satellite, with the result that radio spectrum allocation gets to be a problem. Who knew that “disaster area spectrum allocation specialist” is a job title?


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