People across the United States using a variety of providers lost the internet for a while on Monday, and the problem stemmed from a company most customers have probably never heard of: Level 3. Wired calls it an "internet backbone company," and Slate takes a similar approach, explaining that the Colorado firm "builds and operates the fiber lines making up the internet's backbone." Big providers rely on the infrastructure provided by Level 3, recently bought by CenturyLink, and Comcast seemed to take the biggest hit when the glitch happened about 1pm Eastern on Monday. Spectrum, Verizon, and AT&T customers also had connectivity issues.
The "configuration issue" took about 90 minutes to fix, per CNN. Those who want to dig into the particulars of the problem should check out the coverage in Wired, which labels it a "route leak." The term refers to the communication routes of IP addresses within and between networks, and in this case, something went haywire in the coordination of them. "Think of it like a series of street signs that help keep traffic flowing in the right directions," writes Lily Hay Newman. "If some of them are mislabeled or point the wrong way, assorted chaos can ensue." The problem is believed to have been caused by a technical glitch, not anything malicious. (Read more Internet stories.)