Marysville Internet slowdown incident a wake-up call for city
It was an innocent mistake. In late June, a Marysville employee tuned into a live Webcast of bald eagles nesting in Alaska.
But the viewing consumed 20 percent of the network's capacity.
"People in the county were complaining how slow the Internet was," said Kevin Conde, a Marysville police detective who also is the city's network administrator. "We keep sucking up all their bandwidth."
The problem, Conde says, is the city's outdated firewall — the electronic gatekeeper that prevents unauthorized users from accessing and tampering with the network.
The Police Department, as well as City Hall, corporation yard and wastewater treatment plant all use Yuba County's Internet connection at the county's expense.
But the eagle incident made it clear to city officials their recent decision to postpone replacement of the firewall for one more year would have to be reversed.
The City Council voted Tuesday night to spend the $16,000 necessary to prevent trouble for the city and the county — their patron providers.
"Eagle chicks in a nest sounds neat," said Conde, "and no one wants to work for a business run by the Gestapo. ... but you can only get so much juice out of a lemon."
The city is operating with a $118,000 deficit and battling several employee unions to keep salary and benefits costs down.
Conde said that eventually, the city needs to pay for and control its own Internet use.
In the meantime, he said, the incident serves as a kind of wake-up call about how quickly technology needs change and how important it is to keep current with upgrades.
Bandwidth is not an infinite resource, Conde said, using a familiar analogy.
"If there's nobody using a fire hose, you get a lot of pressure, and things move fast," he said. "But if everyone's watering their lawn at the same time ..."
Five years is more than a single generation for computer technology.
Schools today that attempt to function on a network with less than 100 megabits "are hurting now," said the police detective, who also sets up computer networks for school districts.
"They do so much distance learning, and it's all streaming video. You want them to be able to talk to a marine biologist live at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but there is no way you can do that on a connection from five years ago," he said.
As for police work, much of it is dependent on the Internet for exchange of information between agencies and for investigations concerning digital information.
That is Conde's specialty.
"Gangbangers use YouTube all the time," he said. "And you'd be amazed at what we find on Facebook."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.