March 11, 2011 at 6:37 PM ET
A country known for its advanced telecommunications is struggling with it today.
Following Japan's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, severed undersea lines, downed antennas and overall infrastructure damage compromised both land lines and wireless communications. Add to that the sudden surge in calls from people reporting their conditions or looking for loved ones, and you get a telecommunications disaster.
"Wireless connections are poor across the country," reported Bloomberg, citing a spokeswoman for NTT DoCoMo, one of the three largest wireless carriers. KDDI and Softbank, the other two, were also experiencing problems, at least in regions where the quake damage was greatest.
Nikkei.com reported that NTT DoCoMo was limiting up to 80 percent of calls, while one of NTT's landline groups, NTT East Corp., was limiting fixed-line calls because of the surge in calling.
A translated document from Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs, surfaced by The Register, shows a catalog of damage, ranging from undersea telecommunications lines reported cut or faulty, to failures in wireless base stations across damaged regions.
In photos shown here from the European Pressphoto Agency, Japanese citizens lined up to make calls at public pay phones, which would work when cell phones might have failed, and are presumably exempt from the emergency call rationing. NTT East public phone use is apparently free in six affected prefectures, according to a translated version of this report from Japan's Asahi newspaper.
"The quake was a moment of glory for the Internet and also for Twitter, as information was passed freely and accurately at the speed of IP packets," wrote Peter Payne, the American-born proprietor of the J-list.com Japanese novelty export site, on his personal blog.
"The same can't be said of the traditional telephone and cell networks, which were completely useless in the aftermath of the quake, as everyone tried to contact loved ones but no one got through," he continued. "The first thing I'm doing tonight is making Twitter accounts for my kids and wife so we can contact each other in an event like this."
More Japan quake stories from msnbc.com's Technolog: