56k Line

Posted on Fri 23 October 2020 in NOC

I used work at one of the original NSF ISPs when they were still around (read: the mid-1990s). Many of our clients were dial-up ISP’s and smaller colleges. One small college had a dedicated 56k line (yes you read that right and that was a thing. Read: 1990s). A librarian named Linda was the technical contact for this college because the router to the outside world literally sat on her desk. It has nothing to do with her technical abilities, because she wasn’t technical at all.

She had a funny belief about the Internet — namely, her college was the center of it. As more and more people used the Internet in the library, it became congested and slow. And it didn’t take much for her 56k line to get saturated and more or less stop working until the traffic had eased.

When this happened, we’d get a call from Linda: “The Internet is down, fix it”. Lots of techs would just try to reason with her and etc, but (bless her heart), she didn’t have the technical know-how to understand that their line wasn’t fast enough for the traffic that was now pushing through. She would start getting rude and angry.

On a busy day in the NOC, the phone rang, I picked it up and on the other end was dear Linda: “The Internet is down — fix it”. I said “Give me a moment” and started sending pings to her router until I got a response back. I then said “How is it now?”

I heard some typing and she said, “Oh it’s working now! How did you do that?"