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Hard Questions to Answer

In the critical few minutes after the first hijacked plane's transponder stopped sending data to air traffic controllers, what should have been done? And what was done?

4 min read

When the first plane struck the World Trade Center, people were grief-stricken by thoughts of the tragic accident. When the second plane hit, those visions became an appalling, terrorizing nightmare. But by the time the third plane hit the Pentagon, nearly an hour after the first hit, hard questions were being asked: how could this have happened, why hadn’t air traffic controllers and the military done something? Nearly two hours after Flight 11 struck the first Twin Tower, the fourth plane came down near Pittsburgh, and the questions got even harder. Could the President have ordered the U.S. military to shoot down a commercial airliner carrying civilians? Was there sufficient time to grasp the situation and give that order?

Even now, as recovery and rescue operations continue, and we assess the terrible cost–human, economic, physical, and emotional–the questions linger and the clamor for answers grows more insistent. What should air traffic controllers have known and when? What should they have done? Where were the fighter jets?

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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