Among the casualties of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11 were modern communications networks, which proved surprisingly vulnerable. Millions of people in eastern and northern Japan, including Tokyo, lost some or all cellphone service. A total of 1.3 million land lines and fiber-optic links also went dead.
While those interruptions pale in comparison to the human tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami — 27,000 people are dead or missing — the fragility of modern communications has emerged as one of the catastrophe’s sobering lessons.
In a technology-crazed nation where many people were glued to cellphones and accustomed to the Internet’s nearly instantaneous access to information, being cut off has proved disorienting and frightening.