By Nathan Statz
February 7, 2008
It began with two undersea telecommunications cables that served as data links between Europe and the Middle East being cut, but it’s now escalated with a further three undersea internet cables being cut, with major disruptions to internet services.
When the first two undersea cables went offline the blame was initially placed on ship’s anchors being dragged out to sea for too long, but this is being dismissed by the Egyptian Transport Ministry.
“The ministry’s maritime transport committee reviewed footage covering the period of 12 hours before and 12 hours after the cables were cut and no ships sailed the area,” said a statement from the Ministry. “The area is also marked on maps as a no-go zone and it is therefore ruled out that the damage to the cables was caused by ships.”
The third cable was cut on February 1st, located between the Qatari island of Haloul and the UAE island of Das. The cause of the third cable’s problems wasn’t identified, with ship’s anchors and possible power outages being blamed. This had spill over affects throughout the Middle East and parts of Europe, particularly as the alternative routing options were hammered by the excess traffic.
The report of the fourth undersea cable being cut in the Mediterranean was what ignited social networking discussion all over the internet as to conspiracy theories and questions of deliberate sabotage. This cable outage, operated by Flag Telecom was believed to have been caused by a power outage and not blamed on ship’s anchors like the first three.
The fifth cable which has been cut was a major undersea link to Iran and caused initial panic that the country had been entirely cut off from the internet, this was since proved false however their were widespread outages and those able to access internet services through alternative routing had services slow to a crawl.
The importance of undersea cables is far greater than most people realise, with an estimated 90% of internet traffic being routed via cables, so it’s no surprise that when major undersea cables take a hit, the disruption to internet services in the affected regions is massive.
While repairs and plans for replacement cables are being launched there is widespread concern over what’s causing all the cable cuts and whether this trend will continue. The digital economy losses have yet to be assessed, but the more cables that go down the higher the productivity losses become.
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