DoD blocks ESPN, YouTube for Japan relief efforts

Tuesday - 3/15/2011, 4:44pm EDT

BoB Brewin, DoD reporter, NextGov

Click to hear the interview.

Download mp3

Listen to the story on the Federal Drive.

Download mp3

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

March Madness could get in the way of Defense Department relief efforts in Japan.

The Pentagon is blocking access to popular sites with streaming video - such as YouTube and ESPN.com - to preserve Internet bandwidth for the demands on the network after the Japan tsunami and earthquakes.

A Cyber Command official told Federal News Radio by email that the block is a "partial ban on access to commercial websites that use extraordinary bandwidth." There is no word on how long the ban will last.

The Cyber Command Official said the block "is in response to the needs of the military in a time of extreme demand on all circuits and networks in a region of the world that has been devastated by geological activity."

Although DoD has blocked social media sites in the past for security reasons, this is the "first crisis-driven blocking," said Bob Brewin, DoD reporter for NextGov and writer for the What's Brewin column.

The decision to block sites during March Madness was already considered prior to the Japan disaster, according to statements by Navy CIO Terry Halvorsen at a CIO conference in San Diego last month.

In addition to YouTube and ESPN.com, other sites that are part of the ban include:

The sites on the list were chosen because they were deemed to have the "lease impact on mission operations," the Cyber Command official said in an email.

Noticeably NOT on the list is Facebook. Brewin said the social media site is part of the relief efforts.

"It's used by the commands around the world to inform both their personnel and their families, which is real important right now in Japan," Brewin said.

Despite the ban, sports lovers won't have to miss out on the ESPN games, Brewin said. They just have to watch on TV.

WFED's Ruben Gomez contributed to this story.