Will Swine Flu Take Down the Internet?

By Boonsri Dickinson | October 29, 2009 5:48 pm

swine fluSwine flu has returned, just as predicted, and is getting the better of us—46 states have reported cases of the flu already. And even if you want to take precautions by getting vaccinated, there aren’t enough vaccines to go around.

In any case, when you take sick days to recover, the last thing you’d want to do is be at home without access to the Internet. The Washington Post brings up a good point: If the flu truly becomes a pandemic, then the sick will begin accessing their Internet from home en masse. Such an increase in traffic might overwhelm the system and clog networks run by Comcast, AT&T, Cox, and Verizon. The Post reports:

The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of communications networks during times of national emergency. But it doesn’t have a strategy to deal with overloaded Internet networks—an essential resource to keep the economy humming, and residents informed and connected during a pandemic, the GAO said. Furthermore, the DHS hasn’t coordinated with agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission to create guidelines for how telecom, cable and satellite providers can minimize congestion.

There are solutions, but each has its downsides. Adding bandwidth capacity would be a little too late, and cost too much. Slowing connections to some ‘hoods would violate service agreements to those customers. And blocking traffic to Web sites would require government approval.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Michael Jackson’s Death Causes Internet to Slow
DISCOVER: Swine Flu Has a Warning Shot

Image: flickr/ hitthatswitch

  • B


  • Brian Knoblauch

    Of the people I know that have officially had swine flu, they were all way too sick to even think about using computers/Internet while quarantined at home.

  • Al C

    You said it B and I agree.

  • GoldChain

    This is all a bunch of scare tactic nonsense. I design large networks, and I know for a fact that people telecommuting is NOT going to “overload” the internet by ANY far stretch. Most enterprises deliver their applications via HTTP or some thin technology (like Citrix, VDI, etc). Those technologies use a fraction of the bandwidth that most people might think (somewhere along the lines of 30Kbps per person……. yes so little bandwidth required, you could telecommute OVER AN ANALOG MODEM!!!

    I’m blown away that most people can’t put 2 and 2 together and see what’s happening here.

    * Introduce a wide sweeping and vague Cybersecurity bill to allow the President the ability to shut down parts or the whole Internet because of a “national emergency” (left completely vague in the bill).

    * Play up this swine flu nonsense…. convince people it’s the next plague…. (I know it’s a real thing, and I sympathize with those who have had it or worse yet died from it, but there has been just over 5,000 deaths worldwide….. of over 50,000,000 deaths during the same time period)

    * Declare a “national emergency” because of swine flu (again, a bunch of nonsense)

    * Start putting out feelers in the media about the internet being overwhelmed because of people being at home because of swine flu (again, more nonsense….. nonsense on top of nonsense).

    * (The Gov’t) Exercise your newly horked power to control and shut down the content/parts of the Internet you so choose and watch as there is virtually no outrage from the public, but more likely applause from the sheeple who are too thick to see what’s really happening.

  • Stitch

    I tend to agree with B up there. Um, really guys? Did you actually publish this nonsense?


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar