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October 29, 2009

GAO Study on Impact of a Pandemic on the US Internet

Filed under: 1 — kansastelephone @ 5:16 pm


Welcome to KTIA’s new blog site!  You will be receiving this instead of the previous e-mail format.  Thanks to Steve Holt of KGP Logistics, Inc. for suggesting the blog format.

We begin with the US Internet Industry Association’s conclusions on the Government Accountability Office’s study speculating on the impact of a pandemic on the US Internet:


USIIA Alert            October 29, 2009          Alert 09:04



The following is an alert from the US Internet Industry

Association, the nation’s oldest and largest trade association

for Internet commerce, content and connectivity. Information

regarding USIIA can be found at http://www.usiia.org.



GAO Study Reaches The Right — And Wrong — Conclusions



On October 26,, the Government Accountability Office released

a study speculating on the impact of a pandemic on the US

Internet.  The study, which is garnering much attention in the

media, reaches both correct and incorrect conclusions.


The study may be found at http://gao.gov/products/GAO-10-8.


The thrust of the study is that the Department of Homeland

Security has no plans and is not prepared for the impact of

a pandemic (such as the H1N1 flu virus) on the nation’s

communications networks, including the ability to manage the

needs of children at home ill and telecommuters during a



While this may be true, the study speculates on a number

of issues that require better definition.  USIIA notes that

there are three critical issues to consider:


1)  The GAO study does rightly recognize the benefits of network

management, including traffic prioritization in situations

that include national emergencies.   Similarly, the GAO has

noted that ISPs cannot simply provide more capacity as an

immediate response to a pandemic.  Without such management,

in an emergency there would be no ability to give priority

to e-911 calls, critical telemedicine applications or the

telecommuting applications needed to keep the nation’s

economy running.


2)  While DHS has been charged with managing communications

networks in a national emergency, no government agency can

effectively manage the diverse private networks that comprise

the Internet.  Rather, the role of DHS would be to coordinate

and communicate with the private networks to enable them to

meet the challenges of the emergency in the most effective

manner.  Nor is there need for new federal guidelines on

how networks should minimize congestion — that is the role

of the network managers, who have the training, experience

and authority to do so.


3)  There has been some speculation that additional traffic on

the Internet might negatively impact the operation of

financial networks.  However, those networks — including

banks — carry their traffic on private networks, not the

public Internet.


USIIA has consistently held that management is a fundamental

aspect of operating networks so that they run efficiently and

meet customer needs.  Restricting that management has costs,

including the ability to respond to unusual events such as a

flu pandemic. The consclusions of the GAO study serve to reinforce

that position.



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