Sprint Suffers Severe Data Network Malfunction

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By Kevin Petrie
Staff Reporter

Friday afternoon

Sprint's

(FON)

data network, which forms a major backbone of the Internet, met with a serious malfunction. Traffic was snarled across wide portions of the Internet.

"We've never seen this kind of network-wide meltdown in three years," said an official at a New York-area Internet Service Provider (ISP). ISPs connect retail and corporate Internet users to network capacity wholesalers, like Sprint, which make up the proverbial backbones of the Internet.

The glitch originated with an ISP,

MAI Net

in Virginia, which is connected to multiple providers. An official at MAI Net was not immediately available to explain the company's role. (

The first version of this story said the ISP was in Massachusetts. After the posting of the first version, which was based on an interview with a Sprint networking engineer and other sources, a Sprint spokesman said the problem originated with the Virginia ISP.

) Shortly before noon, its computer sent out a message requesting that all the Internet traffic running through a key exchange point be sent to Sprint. Sprint, of course, was not ready.

That exchange point, called MAE East, serves much of the eastern seaboard. So Sprint's backbone was burdened with a crushing load of misrouted messages. Other major Internet backbone providers, including

UUNet

(now part of

WorldCom

(WCOM)

) and

MCI

(MCIC)

, were roiled by Sprint's confused network routers.

A network technical engineer at Sprint confirmed this chain of events. He added that Sprint has severed its connection to the ISP that started the mess, and engineers are checking all points on the network for further instability.