Packet Rat: In the big city, bandwidth is there for the taking

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

The whiskered one headed to New York over the weekend, staying with a cousin while he prepared for a site survey of his agency's Manhattan field office. But his plans got sidetracked on Sunday night when his bandwidth suddenly ground to a halt.

'Your Internet connection's down,' he complained to his cousin.

'Can't be,' replied the cuz. 'I'm spliced right into a T3 connection from the office building next door.' He flipped open his iBook and started pinging. 'Uh, that is, unless the telco's central office suddenly vaporized.'

The whiskered one slapped his forehead. On his last trip to New York, he had ended up trapped in the subway during the Northeast blackout. 'Oh, great. Take me to your wiring closet. I'm a quarter of the way through this latest security patch download, and if I can't get it to finish, only Bill Gates knows what will happen to my notebook.'

The two padded to the nearby fiber junction that the cousin had exploited, and the Rat opened up his test kit. But all of the fiber was dark.

'I suppose they'll blame this on us rats,' he sighed, flashing back to his recent rant about a certain book's slander of his kind. 'Guess I'd better go find a Starbucks to finish this off.'
As the wirebiter wandered through midtown in search of a WiFi hotspot, he saw a swarm of police cars surrounding a nearby Verizon Communications Inc. building.

Curious, the Rat wandered over and asked what was up. As it turned out, the Verizon central office had been burgled'of four DS3 cards. Some of them, according to later news reports, belonged to Sprint Corp.

'Remind me to leave my wallet locked in the car the next time I visit a telco facility,' sighed the wired one. 'Somebody just walked out with the connections for the equivalent of 114 T1 lines, and no one noticed?'

Even worse, Sprint didn't have any replacement routing cards handy, so the company's infrastructure engineers had to scramble around the tri-state area for replacements, then rush to Manhattan and configure them. Considering that most of the phone company central offices the Rat has visited are akin to Fort Knox, and their collocation cages lock up the other carriers' equipment as securely as Saddam Hussein, the Rat was shocked that Verizon seemed to run such a loose ship in New York City.

But one thing bothered him even more. 'Where could anyone fence stolen DS3 cards?' he wondered.

'You kiddin'?' his cousin scoffed. 'Just look on eBay.' He pointed out an active online auction for a router card.

'It makes me thankful that my fiber's sunk in concrete and run through conduits filled with argon gas,' the whiskered one told his cousin as he left for the local office.

'You mean your agency's private network?' his cousin asked.

'No, I'm talking about the fiber connection from my burrow to the cable box on the corner,' the Rat replied. 'I'm not letting anybody pirate digital cable off my line.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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