Put a plan in place

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Put a plan in place

The havoc caused by Saturday’s fire at a KT switching center in western Seoul continues beyond the weekend. On Monday morning, the central library at Ewha Womans’ University in Seodaemun district had no internet connection and the digital lockers did not work.

The government should be held accountable for the accident just as much as KT is. The state supervises underground utilities like telecommunications, electric, water and gas, while individual telecommunication carriers oversee their own cable lines.

The government classifies telecommunication lines in four grades according to their influence in the overall network. The lines categorized under the higher three grades must have backup systems should they ever be impaired. The KT’s Ahyeon-dong switching center is classified as D, which does not require a backup system. Still, its dysfunction paralyzed landlines, mobile phones, internet, IPTV and credit card payments across northern Seoul. KT has 27 D-grade facilities across the country. Authorities must examine whether its categorization has been adequate, given the grave consequences that a D-grade facility caused, and must enforce a backup system for all telecommunication networks.

The incident underscores that underground cables of a single telecommunications provider are as vulnerable to fire and terrorism as joint public utility tunnels. The government and telecommunications suppliers should look to Japanese carriers’ work during times of emergency. In Japan, other network branches are required to help back up the connection when a branch becomes dysfunctional due to natural disasters. During an earthquake, they even operate sea networks.

Underground tunnels should also be renovated to accommodate firefighters. They should be equipped with automatic fire detection and extinguishing systems. Telecommunications have become as fundamental to our lives as electricity. Authorities must come up with a comprehensive safety outline.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 27, Page 30
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