back to article Sacramento airport goes no-fly after AT&T internet cable snipped

Sacramento International Airport (SMF) suffered hours of flight delays yesterday after what appears to be an intentional cutting of an AT&T internet cable serving the facility. The airport notified passengers of an issue with internet connections at both Southwest and Delta airlines facilities at SMF yesterday morning, with …

  1. mikus


    Well rather lack thereof.

    It's only an airport, why would they have redundant providers? Not like it's important or anything.

    1. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Redundancy

      But note that Airports are often sited in wide-open empty places, with limited surrounding infrastructure. It's not like they are surrounded by adjacent connection cables from other companies.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Redundancy

        Sacramento International is at an intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 99, two major fiber corridors through the state of California.

        I think it was Installation Error #1: Too many bean counters, leading to complete failure due to lack of redundancy.

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Redundancy

      They could probably put critical systems on a 5G cellular service, but that's at least $50 a month.

    3. Blazde Silver badge

      Re: Redundancy

      Basic redundancy (duplication of the system) will rarely be worthwhile when your threat model is malicious acts. Two cables to attack instead of one, big wow.

      A different-mode backup, for example in this case some lower-bandwidth satellite internet connection for the most critical traffic might be a good idea (and they may have had that). You'd still have this kind of significant disruption.

    4. Stu J

      Re: Redundancy

      Generally speaking, each airline gets their own connectivity installed at each airport, and it's up to each airline if they stump up for redundant feeds (and routers). Getting circuits connected can have a lead time of 3-6 months, and proper redundant circuits can increase delivery time and complexity.

      At one major (top 10) US airport I used to work with 5-10 years ago, of all the international carriers that flew into there, only Lufthansa bothered with redundant circuits......but they both terminated into the same datacentre in the airport. One of the circuits was then sent on a dedicated fibre link to the airport's new redundant data centre about two miles away from the main terminal building.

      Lufthansa and some other airlines did enquire about the cost of getting new circuits into the new datacentre, and the ridiculous amount quoted by the telcos would have wiped out the best part of a week's worth of profit for their flights from that airport. So they didn't bother. It's a risk/reward calculation.

      So all the airport's systems were beautifully redundant, but if the original main datacentre in the main terminal suffered a complete power outage, all airline connectivity would have been lost (including for Lufthansa), in spite of having another state-of-the-art datacentre with dual-redundant geographically disparate fibre backbones between the two datacentres and the airport network.

    5. Mark 85

      Re: Redundancy

      Redundancy would work well... or an HV in the feed bundle to give the miscreants a bit of a shock.

  2. williamyf

    ¡Wait! Sacramento is California's capital

    ¿Are you telling me that the Airport in the capital of one of the most powerfull states in the USoA as ony ONE internet connection?

    ¡No redundacies!


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ¡Wait! Sacramento is California's capital

      Sure the state is full of power. It's also powerful.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: ¡Wait! Sacramento is California's capital

      It does make me wonder if this is the Curse of The Bean Counter

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: ¡Wait! Sacramento is California's capital

        Of course it was.

        They will never admit it, though. It was obviously terrorists unknown ... so we must up the budget to protect the physical plant.

        Don't be ridiculous ... we already told you, there is absolutely no money for redundancy!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone please explain

    What us meant by "avoid single point of failure"?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Can someone please explain

      This was my original thought too but if it was a deliberate taking down of the airport as a whole it may be that multiple connections were cut, hence the way it was described.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Can someone please explain

        One cable will carry many bits of fiber. The idiots in charge probably assumed that having over half the installation left as dark fiber meant they had plenty of redundancy ...

        1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

          Re: Can someone please explain

          Multiple fibres. Yeah, right.

          In the same route/duct/pit/junction box?

          Still counts as a single point of failure if a JCB rips into it.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    A couple of teenageers ripping out wires as a prank would also be deliberate.

  5. aerogems Silver badge

    Seems like the number of potential suspects should be fairly small. Only a handful of people would A) know where that line is, and B) be able to "know what they were doing" in targeting it. That all said, I agree with the others that they should have some kind of fallback. Even if it's just shitty cellular service.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Plenty of people probably drive past the box daily. The box was likely chosen at random.

      They knew EXACTLY what they were doing ... looking for copper to steal. What that cable fed was completely immaterial to the perps.

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge

        > looking for copper to steal

        And were sorely disappointed when the scrap merchant told them that all they had taken was a bunch of glass strands wrapped in plastic?

    2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Locating Vulnerable Infrastructure Lines

      ... around here is easy! Just look for the round, black-on-yellow signs reading, "Call BEFORE You Dig" / "1-800-XXX-XXXX".

      Decades ago the utility owners decided there was more risk from Johnnie JCB and Billy Bulldozer than from Ronnie Radical and Reginald Revolutionary.

      1. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

        Re: Locating Vulnerable Infrastructure Lines

        And all those guys are pikers compared to the damage done by Arnie Accountant and Mikey MBA.

  6. GoneFission

    >additional charges could soon be added if a motive is determined.

    "I was intercepting a leftist communist terror plot based on internet misinformation to stop the spread of child abuse" seems to somehow be the currently fashionable get-out-of-jail free card

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Surreally, that's almost exactly right in Australia!

      Almost EXACTLY that wording is being trumpeted right now (for the last week and still gathering volume daily) in all the media by the government and by the "eSafety" regulator.

      Urgent need to wipe ALL reports of events from the internet to stop "right-wing conspiracy theories based on internet misinformation", and the reason --both legal-basis and media declarations-- is "to stop the spread of child abuse" (and also prevent children and helpless minorities from deciding to stab strangers).

      So: well done. You were almost spot on for the current Australian situation.

      Something you missed was the legal letters sent to all social media platforms requiring them under stiff & cumulating penalties to prevent anyone in the world from seeing what's happening in Australia --a GLOBAL ban-- and that they are not allowed to allow ANY current-event information which is not issued by the government or pre-approved media.

      I really wish I was making this up.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "(and also prevent children and helpless minorities from deciding to stab strangers)."

        Shirley the only way to stop that from happening is to ban all knives from civilian use? Issue a nation-wide recall on knives. Any citizen caught with one at home shall be sentenced to no less than 10 years, 20 if they are carrying one in public.

        Remember, knives are only built to stab or cut people! BAN ALL KNIVES!!! YOUR CHILD MAY BE NEXT!!!!!

        Next year, the ban on anything that can be made into a knife will be rolled into the new Protect Kids From Stabby Things law ... followed by pointy sticks.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          And again: precisely this has been proposed by the government and media. Journos aside, just looking at govt, can't remember if it was raised in parliament or just in press conference as something they're looking at. But yeah, again, your ludicrous satire is happening in real life in Australia right now, too.

          Again, I really wish I was making this up.

        2. Shalghar Bronze badge

          It seems that this "protection" propaganda is the current newspeak for killing off any civil rights.

          I see your "Remember, knives are only built to stab or cut people! BAN ALL KNIVES!!! YOUR CHILD MAY BE NEXT!!!!!" and give you the "Waffenverbotszone" and "Messerverbotszone" we have been implementing in germany in recent times. Since it cannot be what must not be, its solely the knives that are to blame, not the politically favoured "minorities" that somehow are almost a majority in certain crime event statistics. And of course, not only lawful citizens but also each and every criminal will obey such signs and regulations. Problem (dis)solved.

          Both links are official homepages of the respective cities.

          Berlin is still discussing if they should try this ludicrous approach, too, but since the Bundestag is currently building a literal moat around the buildings, i think the politicians will let the underlings die freely while being completely protected from any inconveniences they cause.

          For your idea to ban anything that can be made into a knife, i give you germanys seemingly clear Waffengesetz. Definition of whats considered to be a weapon is to be found here:

          Dont rely too much on this, though as there are quite muddy and murky local regulations and the even muddier term of "dangerous item"/"gefährlicher Gegenstand". Now imagine someone with martial arts or simple army training having a sharpened pencil (or any other harmless item that can be abused as a weapon by trained people) in his pocket.

          Hello to australia, it seems that germany is not alone in the censor frenzy. (or censor nancy (faeser))

          Back to the article, why not use low tech from the 1970ies ? Richtfunkstrecke/Klystronröhre is a military device able to connect over more than 30 kilometers/around 15 miles in decent weather, reducing range by about 15% in really bad weather (rain/hailstorm/thunder) with 60 channels in half duplex/30 full duplex and around 19200 baud per channel. Sender and receiver units are about the size of 1x0,6x0,5 meters so if noone looks after a rectangular shape in the size of a samsonite on the roof, it should be pretty safe from saboteurs. I wouldnt recommend LASER based comms due to cost and possible interference from snow/rain/inconvenient sunlight but the good old RF should do the trick.

          1. Dostoevsky

            Say Whaaa?

            The "cultural enrichers" are actually not very enriching? Who would have thought it?

            Now, are they *really* building a most around the Reichstag? I wouldn't be surprised...

            1. Shalghar Bronze badge

              Re: Say Whaaa?

              Well at least some of them are actually working in the same company as old white me and they are indeed enriching with their different views and thoughts on many things. But beware, some evil, evil russians are also part of the non native workforce, so when anything goes wrong, its clearly putin (on the fritz). (No, i dont want to know what a xxxertain films industry might make of this pun...)

              Concerning the aforementioned moat project:

              Directly from a government devoted outlet:


              and heres the official confirmation:


              One has to wonder why such projects are considered necessary, one might believe that the very same politicians who keep on bragging how nice and safe germany is would vote against such unneeded things.Somehow they dont.

              Well at least if its actually filled with water, some leftover frogs and toads might have a safe haven from the imported river crabs. For a while.

  7. bolangi

    All it takes is someone with an angle grinder

    with the curiosity and time needed to locate vulnerable conduits.

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge

      Re: All it takes is someone with an angle grinder

      I blame bloody Lithium Batteries!

      This sort of thing wasn't so easy when the perps had to bring a long extension lead and find somewhere to plug it in.

      Quite serious, i've seen scrotes nicking bikes in broad daylight with battery powered angle grinders..

      1. t245t Silver badge

        Re: All it takes is someone with an angle grinder

        > This sort of thing wasn't so easy when the perps had to bring a long extension lead and find somewhere to plug it in.

        Should have called in Walter O'Brien from "Scorpion"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: All it takes is someone with an angle grinder ..... etc [See list below]

        Current list of proscribed items [to date]:



        Things that can be made in knives.

        Things that can be made into things that can make knives [Recurse here !!!]

        Angle Grinders.

        Extension leads.


        Bikes [encourages the carrying of Angle Grinders !!!]

        Power points [encourages the carrying of extension leads !!!]

        Knives .... again [because I know you still have one hidden in your sock !!!]


      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: All it takes is someone with an angle grinder

        Who needs batteries? You can get cable cutters capable of cleanly cutting 2.25" cables (copper, alumin(i)um or data) for under $130. Or free for the cost of walking next to a linesman's truck when he's up the pole (remember, we're talking about criminals here ... I don't recommend the readers of this august rag take my commentardary as advice).

        Fast, clean, no noise to speak of, no batteries required, what's a criminal not to like?


    Problem with airports is that it is basically a government property that it run by nothing but contractors and possibly private investors (LAX and JFK come to mind).

    Outside of FAA and TSA and the "airport authority", everything else inside that structure and outside is run and owned by non-governmental third-parties.

    In many cases, the check in kiosks, the self-service baggage collectors, the check in counters, the gate counters, the reservation systems, baggage reconciliation systems, the departure control systems and all the other acronym soup which makes up airport systems, are all run by entities who are not the three named above.

    And if the airport authority never engineered diverse cable paths, then the local LEC doesn't have any way but one into the premises.

    The problem with physical data connection providers is that they're all kissing cousins. At the end of the day, whether you're on Cogent, ATT, GTT, NTT or any other dataline provider... you're riding in on the local authority's fiber at the last mile, except in rare cases of over-engineering.

  9. jake Silver badge

    Idiots abound.

    Probably wannabe copper thieves picked the wrong cable. Popped off the lid on a ground box, chose the largest cable available, made their cut, and then took off when they discovered their carefully laid plans were for naught.

    Didn't their mommy tell them that reading and writing were good skills to learn?

  10. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Microwave links

    I believe they're a thing.

    1. Dostoevsky

      Re: Microwave links

      Maybe not near airports...

  11. skeptical i


    Wasn't this a plot point in one of the Die Hard movies, the bad guys cutting a data cable at an airport in order splice into it false information to mislead the airplanes' systems to think they were higher above ground than they actually were? Add "movies that give kids ideas" to AC's list of proscribed items.

  12. Tron Silver badge

    The UK has schools like this.

    In the UK a school had to close because it lost access to the internet. Apparently the safeguarding software wouldn't work without a net connection. What a complete joke.

    School forced to close due to internet issues.

    Airports need a backup. Schools really should be able to cope.

    1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: The UK has schools like this.

      "But we've moved to a modernised, centralised, cloud-based test-scoring and pupil-records management system!"

      Mine's the one with the Smith-Corona portable manual typewriter, the Pitney-Bowes hand-cranked mimeograph machine, and a litre bottle of that smelly, purple repro fluid.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: The UK has schools like this.

      "Safeguarding software" sounds like jargon, so I'd guess that it was something more fundamental than reporting concerns i.e. judging by the content of that brief article, the registers. And I know lots of schools that do the school register online these days. But when I was working gn those schools there was also a paper fall-back system. So either that story is missing something fundamental or they're really not doing something right. Maybe both.

      Being cynical I kind of wonder if they haven't got the staff to manually enter attendance records retrospectively and decided to just close.

      1. Martin Summers

        Re: The UK has schools like this.

        Safeguarding software at schools monitors keystrokes and flags up any dodgy or harmful keywords. If they're online then of course they filter out naughty and harmful content and report back on searches.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: The UK has schools like this.

          If they aren't online there's not a problem with that anyway.

  13. Grinning Bandicoot

    About 10 years ago in a tract not far from the airport thieves took not only the street lighting wires but the aluminum electroliers. It remains unpunished to date. Wire theft is considered by most PDs as victimless and fall far down the list of concerns. Guess their children have gone into the family business.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like