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Cell phone networks’ resilience during Hurricane Sandy

The article I read discusses how many cell phone providers maintained service during Hurricane Sandy. In areas that were most affected, such a New York City, had service, and access to internet even with power outages. This allowed many people to go online to send and receive updates via service social media sites (twitter, facebook, instagram). The article specifically references a tweet from the NYC mayor’s office that advised followers to text a specific number instead of calling 911 to report non-emergency fallen trees. This was contrasted to other catastrophic events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where cell phone providers failed, and networks shutdown. It cites how on 9/11 cell phone service shut down so quickly that it was impossible to text loved ones who had different providers.

The article can be traced to several concepts from chapters 1 and 2 related to social networks and connectivity. The cell phone network would be a giant component, and most likely a strongly connected giant component. Chapter 2 gives the definition for a giant component as ¬†” a deliberately ¬†informal term for a connected component that contains a significant fraction of the nodes.” Each cell phone provider would have a large cluster of nodes which would be connected to another cluster of nodes surrounding another provider. The entire network would be a giant component because it’d be very rare for one person to not be connected to anyone in the component. In fact, that would defeat the purpose of having a cell phone. However, if one provider fails, it would have a cascade effect, because the edges going out from each person with that provider would be terminated, thereby breaking up the giant component, and destroying the connectivity of the network. As the article alluded to, this is what happened in the past: on Sept 11, failure of several providers prevented many people from receiving care and reaching out to loved ones.



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November 2012