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Workshop on the Internet Under Crisis Conditions

Listen to the webcast of the Public Briefing (requires RealPlayer)


 The Internet Under Crisis Conditions: Learning from September 11
Although secondary to the human tragedy resulting from the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, telecommunications issues were significant in terms of both infrastructure damage and the role of communications in mounting response and recovery efforts. As the Internet has come to be a major component of the nation's (and the world's) communications and information infrastructure there is interest in understanding how the Internet performed and was used following the attacks. This report presents an assessment of how the Internet fared, lessons learned from the experience, and how the Internet might play a greater role in responding to future crises. 75 pages, 2002.

Project Scope

September 11th, 2001 was an interesting day on the Internet. The collapse of the World Trade Center towers damaged communications lines. Many people turned to Web sites on the Internet for news and emergency information. For some people in New York, the Internet was used as a replacement communications system while the phone service was out. Some firms had to start providing their internet services from backup locations.

What makes the events of September 11th special are not the individual events. Communications links have been severed before, and Web flash crowds have overloaded Web sites. Rather it is the combination of events that collectively represents the Internet's experience in a disaster.

How the Internet does and can respond to a disaster is of great interest to relief agencies and other crisis responders, governments, national security entities, businesses, and the general public.

To better understand exactly how the Internet did respond to September 11th, the National Research Council's Computer Science and Telecommunications Board convened a workshop on March 5-6 2002 in Washington, DC, organized by a small committee of Internet experts. The committee is currently preparing a short, summary and synthesis report based on the workshop.

Committee Members

Craig Partridge, BBN, Chair
David Clark, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Vern Paxson, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory & ICRI
Paul Barford, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sean Donelan, SBC Communications
Jennifer Rexford, AT&T Labs Research
Mary Vernon, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Jon Eisenberg, Senior Program Officer
D.C. Drake, Project Assistant
Marjory S. Blumenthal, Executive Director


ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communications (SIGCOMM)
The IBM Corporation
The Vadasz Family Foundation