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Construction jams Net traffic

Work meant to increase Net capacity causes a three-hour slowdown, especially for those trying to connect to West Coast Web sites.

Work meant to increase Net capacity caused a three-hour slowdown this morning, especially for those trying to connect to West Coast Web sites.

A construction mishap affected MAE-West, one of the key exchange points for Internet backbone providers. Ironically, the facility is being expanded to help circumvent such outages, said Linda Laughlin, a spokeswoman for WorldCom, which is under government contract to run MAE-West.

In addition, the delay was exacerbated by extraordinarily heavy traffic going to NASA servers to check out the Mars space mission, she said.

Backbone Internet providers route requests and information through about a half-dozen network access points (NAPs). When one has a problem, it can affect the entire Internet. In this case, providers reported problems concentrating on the West Coast.

The trouble started at about 7:30 a.m. PT when the electricity was cut off at one of MAE-West's three switches during a construction accident, Laughlin said. Engineers immediately began reconfiguring the Gigaswitch, she added, and all power was restored by 10:20 a.m.

"It would have affected any network access provider that would be sending traffic into the MAE-West to hand it off," Laughlin said. That's a lot of providers.

Laughlin noted that the expansion at the San Jose, California, facility is being done in direct response to the Net's intense growth. "We need to expand the site so we can have more power supply along with more backup power and make it larger."