Internet, news sites survive blackout

Online news organisations appear to have learnt how to cope with spikes in traffic judging by their performance during Friday's North American power failure.

The internet and popular online news sites reportedly held up well yesterday despite power failures across large parts of the eastern US and Canada, affecting New York, Detroit, Cleveland, Ottawa and Toronto.

The blackout left the internet largely untouched while key news sites were slowed by high volumes of traffic, according to web performance management services company Keynote Systems.

"We see no problems in terms of performance of the internet nationwide. We would not expect any as all the major internet infrastructure providers have data centres with backup generators. They can go for days without commercial power," said Lloyd Taylor, head of technology and operations at the California company.

The "flash crowd" effect that hit news websites such as CNN.com and USAToday.com affected performance of those sites a bit, Taylor says. Availability of the Cable News Network LP LLLP (CNN) site dropped about 5% in the hour after the power outage, and USAToday saw about the same effect, he says.

"The American public is trained to go to the web for breaking news. Most of the major news sites now know how to handle this kind of situation," Taylor says, referring to past instances when news sites have been crippled because of sudden increases in traffic.

The long-distance voice and internet backbone network of MCI continued to operate normally, a spokeswoman for the company says. Some New York switching facilities of MCI, the long-distance and internet backbone, switched to generator power after automatically switching over when commercial power failed.

The series of blackouts began on Friday morning New Zealand time.

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